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H4RS. R. W. M.AQM 



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Presented by 



Belle Harris Bennett 



Her Life Work 



By 
MRS. R. W. MACDONELL 



"Rejoice that man is hurled 
From change to change unceasingly, 
His soul's wings never furled." 






Board of Missions 

Methodist Episcopal Church, South 

Nashville, Tennessee 

1928 



Copyright, 1918 

BY 

Thb Woman's Section of thb Board op Missions 

Methodist Episcopal Church, South 

Nashville, Tennessee 



By ^^^a 



PUBLISHER'S NOTE 

In order to place the life stoiy of Belle 
Harris Bennett within the reach of all, this 
book has been subsidized by the Woman's 
Missionary Council of the Methodist Epis- 
copal Church, South. For this reason the 
sale price is one-third less than is usual 
with books of this character. 



Printed In the United States of America 



Digitized by the Internet Arciiive 

in 2011 with funding from 

Drew University with a grant from the American Theological Library Association 



http://www.archive.org/details/belleharrisbenne01macd 




BELLE HARRIS BENNETT, LL.D. 

FOUrjDER OF SCARRITT BIBLE AND TRAINING SCHOOL. 1889: PRESIDENT OF WOMAN'S 

BOARD OF HOME MISSIONS, 18961910; PRESIDENT OF WOMAN'S 

MISSIONARY COUNCIL, 1910-1922 



THE WOMEN 

OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, SOUTH 
WHOSE COURAGE TO FOLLOW THE GLEAM OF 

MISS BENNETT'S VISION 
MADE POSSIBLE HER GREAT ACHIEVEMENT 



BELLE H. BENNETT 

OF THE ORDER OF SAINTS COURAGEOUS 

Thou seest now the Father's face unveiled. 
The quest of thy long years of service true. 
It was a lonely quest sometimes for thy 
Brave feet, with something of the loneliness 
Of God, who misses from his comradeship 
Those human children dear to his high call. 

Unseeking thou for place or power, as thou 

Didst others meet along life's way, thy thought 

Found utterance thus : "O fellow travelers. 

Know ye the Father ? Come and let us seek 

His face together and his purpose learn 

Concerning you and me, and all those lost 

From his high company through ignorance 

And sin. He seeks them. And he uses us 

To help him find and bring them home again. 

Lo ! here the feet of the Good Shepherd trod. 

Look close, and you will find the way blood-stained ; 

Let's follow quick, our joy to share his pain, 

The pain that all earth's hurts at last will heal. 

See ! Yonder on the heights gleams forth his cross. 

And if we follow steady it will light 

Us all the darksome paths where bruised sheep 

And trembling little lambs await our tender hands 

Come, friends ! O let the Master not miss us 

As comrades strong and true in love's long quest." 

O wise of head, but wiser still of heart, 

Thy love shall bring thee goodly company 

In many won to God from many lands. 

(5) 



BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Dear Saint Courageous, Lady Great-Heart, friend 

Of countless hearts because true friend of God, 

When thy strong soul wore through its imprisoning clay 

And fared it forth into those spaces vast 

Uncharted yet by us who know but time. 

We who love thee, were not wholly left 

Behind in numbing loneliness of grief. 

Somehow we, too, seem strangely borne afar 

Out toward those western seas where tides of time 

Ebb not, but break upon eternal shores. 

We hear the mystic music of those tides 

Which bore thee homeward to the shores of God, 

And pain and death and loss seem passing dreams, 

O Life! O Love! Ye are forevermore. 

Emily Allen Siler. 
Lake Junaluska, N. C. 



PREFACE 

The history of the evangeHstic movement of the eight- 
eenth century, which gave birth to Methodism, carries life 
stories of certain elect women whose consecration, service, 
and social graces rendered large contribution to that great 
cause. It was a sacred obligation of the eighteenth cen- 
tury Church to preserve the histories of Hester Ann Rogers, 
Lady Himtington, and others of those noble women. The 
Church of the twentieth century has no less an obligation 
to perpetuate the memory of the life and service of Dr. 
Belle Harris Bennett, the greatest woman Southern Meth- 
odism has produced. Her name ought to be registered with 
those worthies of the eighteenth century evangelistic move- 
ment because of her spiritual power and achievements. To 
her as to them was granted the privilege of opening up new 
worlds of life and service to others, and like them she sur- 
rendered comfort and pleasure for the work. 

This biography of Miss Bennett has been written at the 
request of the Woman's Missionary Council, the group of 
women whom she led in Christian service for more than a 
third of a century. Barrett Wendell is quoted as having 
said: "The first and perhaps only duty of an honest bi- 
ographer is, so far as may be, tO' set forth the man of whom 
he writes as that man saw himself and explain him in his 
own terms. Then judgment may best be left to those who 
read." It has not been difficult to follow this rule in writ- 
ing the life story of Dr. Belle Harris Bennett, for she defi- 
nitely saw herself God's chosen vessel for specific service, 
and her life was expressed in terms of obedience to that 
vision. The intrinsic value of such a life to the world, sim- 
ply and sympathetically put into words, cannot fail to 
carry a message. It has been my earnest desire so to por- 

(7) 



8 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

tray her life through the pages of this book that those who 
read may receive the message and be won to love and serve 
and glorify God as she did. The task has been a labor of 
love. 

To Miss Estelle Haskin, Secretary of Literature of the 
Council, I am greatly indebted for clippings collected im- 
mediately after Miss Bennett's death. To Miss Emily Olm- 
stead, her beloved deaconess and secretary, I am under great 
obligation for very personal paragraphs taken from her 
brochure, "Intimate Glimpses." The kindly courtesy of 
the officials in the library of the Daughters of the Ameri- 
can Revolution has made possible much data concerning 
Miss Bennett's Colonial and Revolutionary ancestors; and 
the generosity of her many friends in lending correspond- 
ence has added greatly to the value of the book. The sym- 
pathetic cooperation of Miss Bennett's brother and sister, 
Mr. and Mrs. Waller Bennett, of Richmond, Ky., has given 
encouragement and inspiration in making this biography a 
true story of a great life. Mrs. R. W. MacDonell. 

Washington, D. C. 



CONTENTS 

Chapter Page 

Poem 5 

Preface 7 

Foreword 13 

I. Ancestry and Home Environment .... 19 

II. Equipped for High Leadership 36 

III. Building a Missionary Training School . . 54 

IV. A Sacred Heritage 73 

V. Called to Home Mission Fields .... 85 

VI. A Lover of Youth 106 

VII. Work with Negroes 121 

VIII. President of the Woman's Missionary Coun- 
cil 141 

IX. A Good Citizen 163 

X. The Appeal of Foreign Missions . . . . 174 
XL Foreign Travel 194 

XII. That They May All Be One 217 

XIII. Struggling for Church Suffrage .... 232 

XIV. Friendships 256 

XV. Going Home 272 

XVI. Afterglow 285 

(9) 



/ 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

Page 

Belle Harris Bennett, LL.D Frontispiece 

Homelands 32 

Coat of Arms of the Bennett Family 38 

Mr. Samuel Bennett 48 

Mrs. Elizabeth Chenault Bennett 54 

Scarritt Bible and Training School 70 

Miss Sue Bennett 82 

Belle Bennett at Sixteen no 

Sue Bennett Memorial School 141 

Providence Church and Water Mill 163 

Belle Harris Bennett When She Began Public 

Service 164 

Mr. Waller Bennett 203 

Belle H, Bennett Memorial, Scarritt College for 

Christian Workers 293 

(II) 



FOREWORD 

To portray a great personality, self-revealing, self-inter- 
preting in life's manifold, complex relations and experi- 
ences, is a great task. Only one can undertake it who is 
used to the mountain air of high thought, sacrificial toil, 
and quenchless aspiration. 

Besides this kinship of experience, in order to insure a 
vivid portraiture, the biographer must have that reverent 
love for the one portrayed which is only deepened when 
noble souls come into closest intimacy. Those indifferent 
or unfriendly to us have no key to unlock our personality. 
Only as we are loved are we understood. 

Dr. Pinson's biography of Bishop Lambuth grew out of 
a royal friendship between two great spirits passionately 
God ward-bent. St. Francis of Assisi, at the distance of 
centuries, so draws late biographers into love of him that 
they make him near and dear to us. "Margaret Ogilvie," 
the most exquisite gem in English biographical literature, 
is a costly pearl from the deep sea of Barrie's rare, under- 
standing filial love. 

The supreme biographers of all time, who, each in his 
own way, portrayed Jesus of Nazareth, the Good News of 
heaven and earth, wrote from a compelling love moved 
upon by the Spirit of God. To Matthew's publican ears 
the love of clinking coin was forever lost in the sweet im- 
perative of Christ's "Follow me" that reached and captured 
his inmost soul. The "young man" Mark was himself a 
witness of some scenes in the swiftly moving drama of the 
Saviour's passion. In the years following his own spiritu- 
al "come back" after Paul's hot rejection of him, he had 
his sensitive mind and heart reclaimed by the patient sym- 
pathy of his great-hearted kinsman, Barnabas, and wrote 

(13) 



14 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

under the illumination of Peter's burning, repentant love. 
Luke doubtless through days and nights of comradeship 
with St. Paul was swept into the one passion of the Great 
Apostle, "J^sus. and him crucified." Or, perhaps, Luke may 
himself have been one of those truth-seeking Greeks who 
came to Philip during Passion Week with the plea: "Sir, 
we would see Jesus." If Luke did then see and hear, he 
also loved. His power of imagination and pen could visual- 
ize into what Renan called "the most beautiful book in the 
world," all he could hear or read of Love Incarnate. 

But the peerless biography of our Lord came from him, 
who, on the night before crucifixion, heard the very heart- 
beats of the Master — ^John the Divine who, 

"With reverent pen, dipped deep into the crimson tide 
Of Christ's own understanding, sacrificial love. 
John dared to stand upon the utmost rim of thought 
And glimpse the far horizons of the Word made flesh.'* 

Only the searchlight of highest love can reach the heights 
and depths of human personality. My friend, Mrs. Mac- 
Donell, has every qualification I have named for writing 
Miss Bennett's biography; this unsought task, the climax 
of her service for the Church. 

When in 1892 Miss Bennett came to take the place of 
her gifted sister. Miss Sue Bennett, in the Central Com- 
mittee, the small governing body of the Woman's Parson- 
age and Home Mission Society, she came from the Garden 
of Sorrows in whose shadows she had found the serenity 
of a great peace. It is beautiful to recall the warm atmos- 
phere of love and needed fellowship in which she moved 
naturally to her place of leadership in that circle of wide- 
hearted Kentucky women to whom she had long been dear, 
and newer friends won by her heroic work for the Train- 
ing School. 

In that lonely group of women praying and working for 



HER LIFE WORK 15 

a fully awakened Church wherein every child of God should 
be free to give glad service to his world, there could be no 
small misunderstandings or rivalries. We were too busy 
talking with God and heartening one another for the upward 
struggle against public indifference and amazing opposition 
from some of the best and brainiest people in the Church. 

Mrs. Nathan Scarritt from our ranks, afterwards Mrs. 
R. K. Hargrove, following Miss Helm as General Secretary, 
gave brilliant and indefatigable leadership in realizing the 
dreams of Miss Helm and her coworkers in making the 
Homeland Christian for the sake of all lands. When Miss 
Helm's brave spirit left her frail body for God's better 
country, by her request her blessed sister, Miss Mary, came 
after a year's waiting for health to take her place as editor 
of Our Homes. Here was another strong tie between the 
foreign and the home work. 

The Helm sisters belonged to that rare Order of Saints 
of the Sound Head and Merry Heart. Often the keen 
sense of humor prevailing in that pioneer group prevented 
any one of them from becoming a somber saint or from 
finding, with Elijah, a juniper tree under which to take 
counsel with one's own discouraged soul and to be called to 
account by Him who "shall not fail nor be discouraged un- 
til he has set judgment in the earth." How musical is the 
memory of Miss Bennett's clear, ringing laughter when 
there came the victory of seeing "the funny side" even of 
prejudice and unreasoning obstinacy! 

Into this warm, cheery atmosphere Mrs. MacDonell was 
brought as General Secretary in 1900. I have always been 
strongly persuaded that God graciously guided when oth- 
ers sought by Miss Helm and by Mrs. Hargrove to take 
their places declined because already doing God-appointed 
tasks. By unanimous and enthusiastic choice Mrs. Mac- 
Donell was called to enter this open door. I am sure that 
Miss Bennett and the new General Secretary had, in the 



i6 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

comradeship, prayerful understanding love of this small 
group, a preparation for the coming decades of enlarging 
growth, with sometimes necessarily painful adjustments to 
changing conditions and fast-coming world upheavals. 

No other woman could more wisely, lovingly help to 
hasten in the mind and heart of the Church that attitude 
toward the union of the missionary forces for which many 
had always longed and prayed and labored. With that "in- 
finite capacity for taking pains" which Carlyle defines as 
"genius," a pen skilled in expression, a mind and heart keen- 
ly sensitive to beauty and truth, a spirit wedded to right- 
eousness and disciplined into tenderness by life's mingled 
experiences, rich in motherhood, Mrs. MacDonell entered 
upon almost two decades of official service. In these heroic 
years she and Miss Bennett as closest friends and cowork- 
ers endured hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. But 
they were ever conscious of a great comradeship with 
thousands of faithful women, many of them gifted and 
well known, and many unknown except by God. and their 
own obscure circles. 

Many biographies of Miss Bennett might be written, for 
many loved her greatly and understandingly. The riches 
of friendship given out of her great mind and heart were 
poured back into her own life in "good measure, pressed 
down, shaken together, and running over." 

Surely the pulse of the whole Church will be quickened 
as this life story of Miss Bennett goes forth in the begin- 
ning of the jubilee year of Southern Methodist womanhood. 
It is opportune for the Church to which she gave the clear- 
seeing devotion of a true pioneer ; opportune for the world 
which she loved and served with no horizon line but man's 
need and God's will; opportune for the wide circle of 
friends to whom she gave herself in understanding com- 
radeship of service for the King ; opportune for the smaller 
intimate group who thank God for her royal life and love. 



HER LIFE WORK 17 

It was eminently fitting that Mrs. MacDonell was chosen 
for the high service of giving Miss Bennett again to her 
own and to future generations. For Hke Elizabeth Fry, 
Frances Willard, Laura Haygood, Isabella Thoburn, Jane 
Addams, and scores of other resolute souls who have sought 
only to know and do the will of God in utter self-forgetting 
Belle H. Bennett became one of those world grains of 
wheat which fall into the ground and die into an immor- 
tality of harvest. 

The motherhood of the Church prays that the call of Miss 
Bennett's life may reach the world's young womanhood 
everywhere eager for fullness of life. With her, we sing 
with Tennyson again : 

"The path of Duty was the way to glory. 
He that ever following her commands 
On with toil of heart and knees and hands 
Through the long gorge to the far light has won 
His path upward and prevailed. 
Shall find the toppling crags of Duty scaled 
Are close upon the shining table-lands 
To which our God himself is moon and sun." 

Mrs. Frank Siler. 

Lake Junaluska, N. C. 

2 



BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

HER LIFE WORK 



CHAPTER I 
ANCESTRY AND HOME ENVIRONMENT 

Six miles from Richmond, Ky,, on the highway to Lex- 
ington, in the heart of the beautiful rolling blue-grass coun- 
try, is the small township of Whitehall. Before the Civil 
War Whitehall was the center of the handsome country 
estates of a group of leading Kentuckians who gave social 
luster to the section and prominence to the State in national 
and international affairs. There were the Bennetts, who 
had lived on the homestead Homelands, or near by in Mad- 
ison County, since the early settlement of Kentucky. Hard 
by was the handsome estate of Gen. Cassius M. Clay, who 
was famous for service in the Mexican War and as Minis- 
ter to the Court of Russia during the administration of 
President Lincoln. Other prominent families, with large 
landed estates, contributed to the wealth and social life of 
this select vicinity. 

In this community, at Homelands, the beautiful residence 
of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bennett, on December 3, 1852, was 
bom their second daughter, Isabel Harris Bennett. Here, 
in this environment of culture and luxury, Belle Bennett, 
as she was familiarly called, passed her lovely girlhood and 
grew to maturity. She was one of eight children born and 
reared to manhood and womanhood in this family. These 

(19) 



20 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

were William, the eldest, who became a large planter and 
financier; Hon. John Bennett, for many years an able law- 
yer at the Kentucky bar and member of the State Senate of 
Kentucky ; James Bennett, graduate of Centre College, large 
landholder, farmer, and financier ; Dr. David, physician and 
banker; Sue, older by ten years than Belle; Waller and 
Samuel, Jr., graduates of Yale, bankers and brokers and 
landowners. All of these Bennett brothers were gentle- 
men of high character and culture. They commanded hon- 
or and high regard in the commonwealth of Kentucky not- 
withstanding the fact that their professional and business 
careers were confined to Madison County, with the ex- 
ception of one, whose home was located in Lexington, 
twenty miles north of that of his youth. 

Mr. Samuel Bennett, father of this Kentucky Bennett 
family, was an eminently successful planter and financier. 
His high qualities of character and charm of manner classed 
him with that select group which the South honors as 
"gentlemen of the old school." His wife, Mrs. Elizabeth 
Chenault Bennett, was a woman of strong common sense 
and rare executive ability. The outstanding characteristics 
of both Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bennett, in the memory of 
their children, were vigor of mind, courtliness of manner, 
and great consideration for the feelings and opinions of 
others. 

The American house of Bennett, from which Belle Har- 
ris Bennett descended, had its beginning with the colonial 
history of the United States, John Bennett settled in Cal- 
vert County, Md., about 1660. His will, probated in 1700, 
devised a goodly estate to his three sons, John, Thomas, 
and John, for like many gentlemen of colonial days he left 
two sons possessing the same name. His second son, 
Thomass Bennett, settled in Anne Anmdel County, Md., 
where he married Mary Walker. This marriage was 
blessed with ten children. The son to whom they gave his 



HER LIFE WORK 21 

name, Thomas, bom in 1741, served three years in the 
Colonial War with Captain Deans' Company of the Fifth 
Maryland Regiment. This Revolutionary soldier, the sec- 
ond American Thomas Bennett, married Katherine Tevis, 
daughter of Robert Tevis, of Baltimore County, Md. His 
sister, Ann Bennett, married Robert Tevis, Jr. The found- 
er of this American Tevis family came to this country as a 
poor French Protestant lad in the beginning of 1702 and by 
dint of energy and foresight acquired a handsome estate. 

A fever of migration came upon the fourth generation of 
American Bennetts, for four sons of Thomas Bennett and 
one of Robert and Ann Bennett Tevis moved to Kentucky 
when statehood was young. Moses and John settled in 
Madison County, where John became a Methodist preach- 
er, serving as "circuit rider." As small farmer and coun- 
try tailor he supported himself, for he would never accept 
compensation for his ministry. The first Methodist 
Church in Madison County was called Bennett Chapel in 
his honor. It has long since been destroyed, but the build- 
ing site is not two miles from Homelands. This Methodist 
preacher was held in such esteem in his day that he was 
called "Honest John Bennett." 

From this Tevis-Bennett union lovers of the cause of 
education were given to the world. It was Miss Bennett's 
cousin, Rev. John Tevis, and his wife, Mrs. Julia A. Tevis, 
who established that highly accredited school, Science Hill, 
at Shelbyv'ille, Ky., over which the Tevis family presided 
fifty-four years. Hard by, in the mountains of Southeast- 
ern Kentucky, at London, rises the Sue Bennett Memorial 
School because of this Bennett passion for making educa- 
tion possible for a backward people, while "Honest John's" 
nephew, Benjamin Franklin Bennett, reached out for the 
higher education of women through Goucher College in 
Baltimore, to which he contributed two substantial build- 
ings, $60,000, and twenty-five years of imsalaried service 



22 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

as treasurer. The Scarritt College for Christian Workers, 
in Nashville, Tenn., the Woman's Christian Medical Col- 
lege, in Shanghai, China, and Bennett College, Brazil, are 
exponents of Miss Belle Bennett's belief in the power of 
education. 

Turning from the line of ancestors through "Honest 
John Bennett" to the other side of "Honest John's" house, 
it is found that in May, 1611, the proud ship Prosperous 
sailed up the James River, bringing with other passengers 
"Capt. Thomas Harris, Gentleman," so styled in the rec- 
ords of the Virginia Company. This gentleman of the 
Virginia Colony was grandfather sixth removed of Belle 
H. Bennett. Whether he came to this "New World" be- 
cause of the rtunor that "all the dripping pans ran pure 
gold," or for the loftier motive of implanting Anglo-Saxon 
civilization, the records fail to tell. Ten years later, No- 
vember, 1 62 1, the Marmaduke brought Capt. Thomas Os- 
borne and his family to Virginia. His fair young daughter, 
Adria, soon gained the affections of our doughty bachelor, 
Capt. Thomas Harris, now forty-eight years of age, who 
had escaped the charms of the one hundred young women 
sent by the London Company to Virginia to marry the 
brave pioneers. Notwithstanding the twenty-eight years' 
difference in their ages, he wooed and won Adria. The 
Harris home established by this tmion became a bulwark of 
the new country, "a seed plot of Christian civilization." 

The colonists were mobilized for resistance of the un- 
friendly attacks of the Indians under Lieut. Col. Thomas 
Osborne, with Capt. Thomas Harris second in command. 
On the memorable March 22, 1622, when the thirty Indian 
nations assaulted the white people, these brave officers were 
among those who led their forces to successful defense. 
These valiant warriors were called also to governmental af- 
fairs in this new country. Captain Harris was twice elect- 
ed by popular vote to represent Henrico County in the 



HER LIFE WORK 23 

House of Burgesses and Lieutenant Colonel Osborne served 
five years as Burgess for the same county. 

To Captain Harris and Adria was born Maj. Robert Har- 
ris, who Hke his father and grandfather Osborne was an 
officer of the miHtia. Maj, Robert Harris' marriage with 
Mary (Claiborne) Rice, a young widow, daughter of Col. 
William Claiborne, the first Secretary of State of Virginia, 
imited two of the first and bravest families of colonial days. 
Their son, William Harris, stands on record as a fore- 
runner of good roads builders, for colonial history regis- 
ters his "petition for a road from his plantation on Green 
Creek to South River — that is, James on the lower side of 
Bellenger's Creek." It is an interesting fact to note here that 
one of Belle H. Bennett's hobbies was good-road building, 
particularly for such as furnished entrance to and egress 
from properties over which she had. supervision. Young 
William Harris married Temperance Overton, whose first 
son, Robert, was bom in 1685. This second Maj. Robert 
Harris, besides serving the militia, was Surveyor General 
of Louisa County. He married Mourning Glenn, a woman 
so remarkable for piety and lovable character that her chil- 
dren down through generations named a daughter Mourn- 
ing Glenn in her honor. 

The eldest of Major Robert and Mourning Glenn Har- 
ris' ten children was Christopher, who was great-grand- 
father of Miss Bennett. The American Revolution was 
brewing while Christopher Harris was growing to man- 
hood. The eloquence of Patrick Henry and Richard Henry 
Lee so fired his patriotic spirit that he volunteered for Rev- 
olutionary service at the first call for men to carry on the 
battle for American independence. He and his brother, the 
third Capt. Robert Harris, rendered valiant service through- 
out the Colonial War. Christopher married beautiful Ag- 
ness McCord on October 2, 1794, and to them was born a 
daughter, Isabel. Later they migrated to Madison County, 



24 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Ky., where they secured large land grants. Isabel grew 
into charming young womanhood in this rich flax-growing 
country and soon captivated and married the young planter 
and preacher "Honest John Bennett." This gracious Isa- 
belle Harris Bennett became mother of Samuel Bennett, of 
Homelands, and it was through her the blood of these ac- 
cumulated generations of pioneers, patriots, leaders, and 
statesmen were transfused into the living, pulsing heart of 
the second Isabelle Harris Bennett, longtime leader of Meth- 
odist women of the South. It was from this grandmother 
Miss Bennett got her name, which she revered because of 
its relation to those whose blood she was proud to claim. 
She always insisted upon insertion of the name Harris or 
the initial "H" whenever her name was written or ap^ 
peared in print. 

On her maternal side Miss Bennett's ancestors were 
French Huguenots. About 1 730 the Chenaults came to the 
"New World," seeking freedom from religious persecution. 
In Albemarle County in 1749 William Chenault was bom. 
This young French American was destined to play a large 
part in the struggle for American independence. He served 
in the Fifth Virginia Regiment of the Colonial Army, com- 
manded by Col. Josiah Perkins, in Capt. Henry Tennell's 
Company. He was in the battle of Stillwater, in 1777, be- 
fore the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga. Again he was 
in the battle of Brandy wine, the first American battle in 
which the Marquis Lafayette participated. He spent the 
winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge, where perhaps the 
greatest hardships of the war of the Revolution were en- 
dured. He was in Washington's march in pursuit of the 
British in 1778 from Valley Forge through New Jersey to 
New York City after the evacuation of Philadelphia by the 
British. Before the war this hero of Revolutionary days 
had married Elizabeth Mullins, daughter of Mathew Mul- 
lins, who was also a soldier of the Continental Army. In 



HER LIFE WORK 25 

the fall of 1786 William Chenault immigrated to Madison 
County, Ky., and with his family settled on a farm pur- 
chased from Josiah Phelps. 

There could be small wonder that William Chenault, Jr., 
the son and grandson of Revolutionary soldiers, should 
have been fired with zeal for service in this new coun- 
try. He found a bride in Susannah Phelps, daughter of 
Josiah Phelps, whose father, Capt. John Phelps, had 
rendered distinguished service in the French and Indian 
Wars of 1753. He also had represented Bedford County 
in the Virginia House of Burgesses. Josiah Phelps himself 
was a spectacular figure in defense of Fort Boonesboro 
against the Indians in 1778. He was also one of the one 
hundred and eighty men in George Rogers Clark's daring 
campaign against the British and Indians in Kentucky and 
Ohio. His name appears on the petition to the Governor 
of Virginia to incorporate the city of Louisville, in 1779. 
When Kentucky became an Independent State Josiah Phelps 
and his son-in-law, William Chenault, Jr., were elected to 
represent Madison County In the General Assembly of the 
State. Later the sons of William Chenault and his wife, 
Susannah Phelps Chenault, Waller and William, were mem- 
bers of the State Legislature ; the latter, the third William, 
also served In the Constitutional Convention of Kentucky 
in 1849. 

After the death of her husband, Susannah Phelps Che- 
nault managed his estate so cleverly that she was reckoned 
the most remarkable woman of Madison County. It was 
their daughter, Elizabeth Chenault, who married Samuel 
Bennett on December 11, 1834. From her mother's farm, 
north of Richmond, yoimg Bennett took his bride to his 
own cottage home and fertile fields. Their combined 
energy, sagacity, and religious tenacity were rewarded with 
the prosperous estate, Homelands, where their eight chil- 
dren were born. 



26 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

This long roll call of men and women of pioneer spirit, 
these warriors skilled in combat and in government and 
great business, and these gentle women, devoted mothers 
with gifts of home-making and zeal for the mental and 
spiritual uplift of their fellows, are the ancestors of Belle 
H. Bennett. 

Measured by standards of the twentieth century, the 
family government of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Bennett was 
strict. They exacted prompt obedience from their children ; 
each child had his allotted task notwithstanding the fact 
that there were servants and caretakers. Belle was allowed 
a given number of white dresses per week; if she exceeded 
these she was required to iron them herself. In their effort 
to develop physical hardihood in their children they rarely 
permitted artificial heat in their bedrooms in winter months. 
They diligently strove to implant democratic ideals as re- 
gards their fellows in their young minds. Mrs. Bennett 
was most tenacious of family ties arul could not be happy 
when her children were away from home. This tenacious 
hold upon family was shown in later years when the two 
younger sons arranged to enter a banking business in Kan- 
sas City, Mo. She was so unhappy that they returned to 
Kentucky, sacrificing their personal preference out of regard 
for her happiness. 

Mrs. Bennett was a devoted member of the Methodist 
Episcopal Church, South, and the family worshiped at the 
little brick church, Providence, six miles from Richmond, 
built on land given by Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. It was one 
of the established rules that every member of the household 
must attend Church sei-vice on Sunday. One who enjoyed 
frequent hospitality there says: "The handsome Colonial 
home of the Bennetts was always filled with a gay com- 
pany of young people, for their hospitality was imbotmded 
and a warm, simple welcome made each one lucky enough 



HER LIFE WORK 27 

to be a giiest feel at home. No guest stayed away from 
church on Sunday, and a cavalcade from the Bennett home 
would file into the country church, men and women separat- 
ing and sitting on opposite sides, according to its quaint cus- 
tom. Frequently other friends besides the house guests 
would be invited from Church to dinner. I remember once 
we sat down to the table with thirty." Sue and Belle had 
part in the Church work as soon as they could sing in the 
choir. 

The Bennett children were all sent to the near-by country 
school until they completed its course. It was a glad day 
for little Belle when, with dinner pail and book in hand, she 
fared forth by the side of her brother Waller in quest of 
education at this little institution of learning. They 
learned far more than the books and teachers taught in this 
country school. They learned to love the beauty and the 
friendliness of nature in the hills and woods and streams ; 
they learned when trees must bloom and come to fruitage, 
and many wonders of insect life were revealed to them. 
The birds became their friends; they knew their nests and 
habits and their different songs; full well they understood 
and heeded the thrush's wild lay, "O, fret not after knowl- 
edge." 

This gracious influence of nature expanded and enriched 
her personality. The memories of this period so cemented 
the whole-hearted devotion of the brother and sister that 
changes and fullnesss of occupation could never separate 
them. It was to this brother, who never forgot to be gentle 
and courteous or full of concern for her comfort in their 
wildest sports, she turned for counsel in the years of ma- 
turity, and it was to him she committed the care of her per- 
sonal business affairs. To give was the first requisite of 
her nature, and when she became submerged in her life work 
her generosity seemed prodigal to her friends, who chided 
sometimes lest in the kindness of her heart she should 



28 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

become bankrupt. It was her wont to reply : "No. Waller 
will take care of that; he won't let me go to the poor- 
house." 

One of her earliest and closest friends was Lucia Bumam, 
of Richmond, whom she first met at a dinner party at 
Homelands to which Mrs. Burnam and she had been in- 
vited. Little Lucia was ushered upon arrival into the nur- 
sery where "Mammy Ritter" was finishing Belle's toilet. 
With her characteristic impulse of sharing her good things. 
Belle began telling the little visitor the story of the "Little 
Red Hen" which she had recently read. This sharing of 
mental and social joys became habit as the years wore on. 
Miss Burnam describes this child of eight summers as hav- 
ing "deep blue eyes, straight blond hair, and very serious 
face for one so young." Little Lucia made many visits to 
the Bennett home, where these little girls romped with an 
abandon possible on an estate so vast. They played 
"ladies," or roasted eggs in the ashes of the great open 
fireplace. They stretched sheets on the kitchen floor, on 
which they dried peas to be hulled later, or made biscuit 
which they cut with thimbles. They rode horseback and 
raced, hunted bird nests and searched for wild flowers, and 
played the countless pranks their fertile imaginations sug- 
gested. 

When Belle was eleven years of age she entered Dr. 
Robert Breck's private school. Dr. Breck, a noted 
Presbyterian divine and classical scholar, was the first 
Chancellor of Central University of Kentucky. In winter 
months she boarded in town, going home for week ends. 
In spring and fall she came daily six miles from Home- 
lands, a far greater physical tax than it is in these days of 
rapid transit. It was in Dr. Breck's school that Miss 
Bennett laid the foundations of the education which con- 
tinued through life, for she never ceased learning. Dr. 
Breck's scholarly attainments and strength of character 



HER LIFE WORK 29 

kindled mental ambition and sent her in search of truth. 
She claimed so little for herself that her family did not 
recognize the unusual wealth of her personal nature, nor 
did they appreciate her varied talents when she was growing 
up. The records of this period show her writing composi- 
tions, playlets, girlish essays and book reviews, with a pre- 
cision and order that make clear her mental possibilities 
and the high quality of training that sent her out into the 
world a lucid writer and accurate speaker. A habit of 
analysis was formed then which bore fruit in her illuminat- 
ing Bible teaching in the after years. 

From Dr. Breck's school Miss Bennett went to Naz- 
areth, near Bardstown, Ky., and later to a school at College 
Hill, Ohio, ranked at that time among the best schools for 
young women in the West. Ehiring the years spent in 
school she developed her talent for music, and after finish- 
ing the academic courses she took voice training for a short 
period in Cincinnati. Her high soprano voice was of 
specially sweet quality. Music never lost its jx>wer over 
her. Emotional response to the great creations of the mas- 
ters swayed her heart as the trees bend to the winds. She 
never lost an opportunity to hear a musician of note or at- 
tend a symphony concert. When she had long passed the 
fiftieth mile stone of her life the great Polish master, 
Paderewski, gave a recital while she chanced to be In New 
York. Seats had been sold days before, and though as- 
siu*ed there was scarcely standing room she purchased a 
ticket and stood throughout the performance, perfectly un- 
conscious of the Inconvenience or fatigue. Again, she 
visited Chicago when Theodore Thomas' orchestra was 
conducting a series of concerts at Ravinia Park, and though 
she was just recovering from a protracted illness she per- 
sisted in sitting in the open long hours, night after night, 
under the mesmeric influence of divine harmonies. Miss 
Bennett loved the theater and the opera and made frequent 



30 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

visits in her youth to Cincinnati and Louisville when good 
plays or music were offered. Shakespeare's tragedies, be- 
cause of their faithful portrayal of human emotion, inter- 
ested her most. 

A faculty for reading pictures soon developed. With un- 
canny skill her imagination penetrated the thought or pur- 
pose of the artist, and the picture became a joy or source of 
pain as it interpreted its master's mind. She had tondness 
for color, for the rich coloring of the old paintings, and she 
had a clear eye for symmetry and proportions. Like all 
great and strong natures she liked best contact with strength 
and greatness, and pictures and statuary that expressed 
virile strength appealed to her most. Her preference for 
Michelangelo's statue of Moses over all other statuary 
reveals this love for strength in art. Thirteen years before 
her death this attraction was revealed when a large sepia 
print of a wonderfully proportioned, powerful face of an 
Indian chief seized her fancy while visiting Albuquerque. 
She promptly purchased it, and it hung with forty other 
beautiful pictures on the walls of her room. 

From girlhood Miss Bennett was an omnivorous reader. 
She reveled in fairy stories and in the mythology of the 
Greeks and the Norsemen. She loved the human interests 
of fiction and that which excited her imagination. Especial- 
ly did she care for books of travel. The mysticism of 
Browning made a wonderful appeal to her, even in her 
youth. She took greatest delight in history, particularly 
that which referred to Colonial and Revolutionary periods 
and the subsequent Constitutional development of her own 
country. This gave her unusual knowledge of constitution- 
al law which in other years served to good purpose in her 
work in the United States. Nor did she confine her in- 
terests to this country. She reached out for knowledge of 
the other nations of the world. Her imagination breathed 
life into the peoples with whom history dealt, and she lived 



HER LIFE WORK 31 

in their times, became conversant with the principles under- 
lying their moral order, and shared their human ambitions 
and struggles. 

Miss Bennett always possessed the keenest sense of 
humor, which enlivened any group, no matter how serious- 
ly inclined. It gave spice and variety to her conversation 
and set at ease any stranger, however diffident. Her gentle- 
ness of manner and thoughtfulness of the feelmgs of others 
saved her from sarcasm, which frequently accompanies this 
gift. This sense of humor became a most helpful factor in 
her official life. 

As a schoolgirl she had a large circle of friends and en- 
tered into the social life about her. Gentleness and dignity 
of bearing were distinguishing characteristics even at that 
age, and as she matured into young ladyhood she was 
crowned with all the graces of Southern womanhood. Par- 
ties, dancing, horesback riding, and other forms of gayety 
became her social diversions. Miss Kate Helm, daughter 
of Gen. Ben Hardin Helm, an intimate friend for many 
years, describes her at this time as being "very handsome, 
with tall graceful figure. She had blue eyes and ash blond 
hair (that unusual and very beautiful color). Her com- 
plexion was creamy white with delicate pink cheeks and 
lips — there was never a trace of anything artificial about 
it. This beauty, combined with her unusually fascinating 
manner of expressing herself, made her a rare personality." 
The Bennett home always abounded in hospitality, and dur- 
ing Miss Bennett's youth it was the scene of much gayety. 
Friends and suitors came from a distance to visit her. In 
these years of merry-making she spent two seasons at the 
State capital with her brother John, who was a member of 
the Senate. She was perhaps the most admired young 
woman at the many social functions in Frankfort. Again 
she was the gayest of the gay and a reigning belle at the 
Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and for several seasons was 



32 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

entertained and feted in many other cities of the South. 
She was one of the most sought-after young women of that 
day in Central Kentucky. Her inabiUty to find responsive 
regard for any one of the many who sought her hand in 
marriage was a strange contradiction of the most outstand- 
ing quahty of her nature, for her power to love and beget 
love and her dependence upon it was most imusual. 

When Miss Bennett was a young girl her brother Wil- 
liam married Miss Annie Neale, and later Mr. James Ben- 
nett married Miss Sarah M. Clay, daughter of Gen. Cassius 
Clay, whose estate adjoined Homelands. Mrs. James Ben- 
nett and her sister. Miss Laura Clay, were ardent pioneers 
in the woman's suffrage movement of this country. Their 
opposition to the world's attitude toward woman as man's 
inferior met sympathetic response in the heart of this 
young girl which later found vigorous expression in her 
struggle for the right of women to have voice and vote in 
the councils of the Church. 

Another molding influence in Miss Bennett's life was 
her older sister. Miss Sue Bennett. By her rare sweetness 
of disposition, unselfish nature and abiding cheerfulness, 
she won her way to the hearts of all the family, but it was 
through her ability to understand and sympathize with the 
younger sister and enter into fellowship with her aspirations 
that she strengthened Belle's life purposes. In her serious 
hours she was most confidential with her older sister, who 
encouraged her to cherish every impulse to serve and to fol- 
low the quest of her soul. 

A new experience came to Miss Bennett in these days of 
social gayety through the sudden death of Mrs. William 
Bennett. It was her first acquaintance with sorrow and 
opened to her inquiring mind the question of immortality. 
The bereaved husband returned to the parental roof with 
his four small children, the youngest being a few days old. 
The responsibility for the care and training of these chil- 




0) ^ 

n ^ 

z o 

< 5 

uS 

2 > 

^ 

T h 



HER LIFE WORK 33 

dren largely devolved upon Miss Sue Bennett, and to her 
need for help the generous heart of the younger sister re- 
sponded with ready assistance. 

Among Miss Belle Bennett's endowments were her ca- 
pacity for family devotion and great gift for home-making. 
Soon after Mr. Samuel Bennett's death in 1888 Mrs. Ben- 
nett and the two daughters moved from Homelands to Rich- 
mond, where the sons already were established. Miss Sue's 
death within a year and Mrs. Bennett's advanced age threw 
the responsibility of the home-making upon Belle. The gra- 
cious hospitality of the country was continued in the town 
home, and whether at Homelands or in Richmond the 
parental roof was counted home. Sons and daughters-in- 
law and grandchildren gathered there for anniversaries 
and social functions, and the duties of hostess naturally 
passed to Miss Bennett. She was ever a cordial, charming 
hostess. The younger brothers during these years married 
and set up their own homes. Samuel Bennett, Jr., married 
Miss Mary Warfield, and Mr. Waller Bennett and Miss 
Mary Burnam were married in 1896. When the mother 
passed away in 1897, Miss Bennett alone of the big family 
was left in the home, and with heroic courage she turned 
the key that forever locked the door upon that which had 
been her dearest earthly possession. In loneliness she 
turned to Mr. and Mrs. Waller Bennett, in whose home she 
found welcome without measure. 

In these seven years of residence in Richmond Miss Ben- 
nett had been called to leadership in the Church of her 
fathers. Her official duties so multiplied and absorbed her 
thought that she soon found it necessary to surrender the 
joys of family association in the home of her brother and 
to reside at the hotel, where she might devote her whole at- 
tention to the work. Miss Bennett was too perfect a home- 
maker to locate in a colorless place, such as the phrase "room 
at a hotel" would indicate. How perfectly her personality 



34 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

found expression in material things is pictured in Miss 
Emily Olmstead's description of her room: 

"I well recall the cry of admiration that involuntarily 
escaped me when she threw open the door to her room. 
The massive four-poster bed with its canopied top, the 
high, old-fashioned bureau, the mahogany secretary and 
book case combined — all bespoke the colonial style. 
Afterwards, I learned that some of the furniture had 
come down to her from one generation to another from 
the Chenault family, who originally came to Kentucky 
from Virginia. On the walls of her room were forty 
beautiful pictures. Over the mantel was a large oil 
painting of her father, whose gentle, sweet face was not 
unlike his daughter's. Everywhere there was an air of 
elegance and comfort which set her room apart from 
every other in the hotel. Just outside her room in the 
hall were handsome mahogany bookcases containing 
her rare collection of books." 

For twenty years Miss Bennett called this hotel home, 
save for an interlude of eighteen months when, in recog- 
nition of the sacredness of family obligation and deep affec- 
tion, she gave herself to the care of her brother, Hon. John 
Bennett, in his last illness. When the doctors gave no hope 
of his recovery, she moved into a beautiful house and 
equipped it for his comfort. In this real home, with the 
assistance of a competent nurse, she gave him the attention 
that only love could provide. Early in the first days of in- 
validism it was her privilege to stand by his side as he pro- 
fessed faith in Christ and was baptized. When he died she 
returned to the hotel. 

The blending of this atmosphere of family devotion and 
cultural environment produced in Miss Bennett a rare qual- 
ity of personality. The traditions of her forefathers like- 
wise awakened her powers of idealism. They were ideal- 
ists: they believed it possible to build a great republic in 
this "New World," a great nation of free and happy folk 



HER LIFE WORK 35 

where men and women have an equal chance, a nation whose 
civiHzation shall be Christian, and they believed it so surely 
they gave their lives to attain the goal. It was this ability 
to believe absolutely in a vision of opportunity and so visual- 
izing it as to command cooperation of others in bringing it 
to realization that made her great. 



CHAPTER II 
EQUIPPED FOR HIGH LEADERSHIP 

In the midst of all her social activities Miss Bennett 
carried serious thought and earnest yearnings for things of 
spiritual value. Her understanding heart enabled her to 
enter into fellowship with all suffering, and even as a care- 
free girl she had rare skill in comfort's art. But she did 
not realize then that "the two things that determine the 
way of life for each of us are the road of our longing and 
the quality of our soul," nor that these would lead her to 
paths where God calls: "Come ye after me, and I will make 
you fishers of men." 

She had worked in the Sunday school and sung in the 
choir even while the world of social gayety allured her re- 
sponsive nature. These were the only Church activities 
open to Methodist women at that time; the Woman's Mis- 
sionary Society had not yet been authorized by the Gen- 
eral Conference. Despite these forms of service, she did 
not take upon herself the vows of Church membership until 
1875, when she was twenty-three years of age. Dr. Lap- 
sley McKee, a distinguished Presbyterian divine, conducted 
an evangelistic meeting in Richmond, Ky., that year, and 
there must have come to her then a profound conviction 
that "the Church is the organized expression of God in the 
soul of man" created for the furtherance of the gospel 
throughout the world, for immediately thereafter she joined 
old Providence, the Church near Homelands where the 
family had worshiped many years. 

No increased activities came to her in this new relation 
to the Church, but to her active temperament acceptance 
of responsibility which Church membership involved meant 
search for increased fields for Church endeavor. She be- 

C36) 



HER LIFE WORK 37 

gan friendly visiting among the poor in Madison County, 
which revealed a community devoid of religious oportu- 
nity. With Miss Sue's help plans for a Sunday school in 
that neighborhood were made. An abandoned building 
near a grist mill was secured and made ready for use, chil- 
dren were invited to come, and the date was fixed for an 
opening. When the day arrived a group of gay young 
people from Richmond came to spend the afternoon in her 
home. To one of Miss Bennett's standard of hospitality, 
a battle between a sense of courtesy and an obligation to a 
newly established program of religious activity was in- 
evitable. In the light of after years it is not difficult to 
picture her look of determination, as with characteristic up- 
ward thrust of her chin she "never turned her back but 
marched breast forward" to the task she had set in the zeal 
of her perfect consecration to God and his Church. She 
always reckoned the victory of obedience to his call to serve 
in the little grist-mill Sunday school in Madison County the 
determining factor of her large leadership. "Obedience is 
the price one must pay for the conscious reality of God" 
became a slogan of her leadership, and she always claimed 
it was the "key to unlock the treasure house of God." 
Obedience was the theme she used oftenest in Bible readings 
or devotional addresses in the long years of her public min- 
istry. Often she expressed her gratitude for the heaven- 
born victory of her first test of "obedience to the heavenly 
vision" in these lines: 

"Had Moses failed to go, had God 

Granted his prayer, there would have been 

For him no leadership to win ; 
No pillared fire ; no magic rod ; 

No wonders in the land of Zion; 
No smiting of the sea ; no tears 

Ecstatic, shed on Sinai's steep; 

No Nebo, with a God to keep 
His burial ; only forty years 

Of desert, watching with his sheep." 



38 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

xvliss Bennett was richly temperamental, and her zealous 
spirit was often filled with divine discontent as she reached 
upward and outward in God's service. In these years of 
adjustment of her natural life to the divine, she spent a 
season at Lake Chautaqua, N. Y., when her zeal was great- 
ly quickened by the inspirational addresses, and her long- 
ing for a more perfect life was intensified. Returning to 
Richmond, she confided to a sympathetic friend something 
of her divine discontent, "I have spent my life in frivolity 
and idleness. Now I mean to give it wholly to the Lord," 
she declared. That year, 1884, the Rev. George O. Barnes, 
a Presbyterian evangelist of great culture and spiritual 
power, visited Richmond, and through him God opened to 
her the larger possibilities and greater privileges of a life 
conformed to his law of perfect love; then it was her "be- 
lief passed into faith." He helped her catch a vision of a 
kingdom won by Christ and persons like herself working 
with him as God's eternal purpose for the universe. This 
conception of God's plan for workfellowship of man with 
the Christ filled her soul with perfect love and joy unspeak- 
able. It brought to her a consuming desire to know what 
part God had for her to play in the consummation of 

"That far-off divine event 
To which the whole creation moves. 

In Miss Bennett's eagerness for fellowship and growth 
in her new-found joy, she arranged to visit her kinsman, 
Dr. J. W. Chenault, in Louisville, Ky., that she might 
spend some time with Miss Mette Thompson and her sister 
Harriet, whom she knew to be Spirit-filled women. Miss 
Harriet Thompson gives this vivid picture of her earnest 
searchings at this time: 

"My oldest sister married Dr. J. W. Chenault, first 
cousin to Miss Bennett, and my sister Mette and I were 
members of their household. We naturally learned 




COAT OF ARMS OF THE BENNETT FAMILY 



HER LIFE WORK 39 

much of Miss Bennett and her family through this 
connection by marriage. Our close Christian friend- 
ship with her had its beginning in the fall of 1884 or in 
the early winter following, when she spent several 
months in the Chenault home. 

"On her arrival she told my sister Mette that she 
had lately, under the teachings of George O. Barnes, 
received the definite baptism of the Spirit, that she had 
heard of her walking in the strength of a like baptism, 
and that she had come to Louisville to be with her that 
she might learn from her more of the Spirit's work in 
and through consecrated and baptized Christians. These 
two blessed young women spent all available hours of 
the winter in prayerful Bible study together, trusting 
the Spirit to lead them further into the truth concerning 
himself. The baptism of power in the Holy Spirit, wis- 
dom and safety of walking in obedience, and the 
branches of Christian service to which their hearts were 
inclined were the themes of their conversations, Bible 
study, and prayers. 

"Like D. L. Moody, Miss Bennett was not specially 
called to teach those passages of the Bible thai have 
immediate bearing upon this great truth, though like 
him she bore witness on all suitable occasions. She 
lived and labored in utmost loyalty to the Church, but 
was saved from the sin and folly of separatism, and no 
woman was ever led into error or excess through her 
teaching. 

"I quoted once in her hearing Isaiah 58: 13, 14. 
She was deeply impressed with the passage. It took 
hold of her heart. One night as she sought in prayer to 
consecrate her life fully to God's service these words 
stood out before her and she cried aloud: 'As best I 
could I have turned away my foot from the Sabbath, 
from doing my pleasure on thy holy day. I do call the 
Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord. I have honored 
thee, not doing my own ways, nor finding my own 
pleasure, not speaking my own words ; and the promises 
based on these conditions are mine. Thou wilt cause 
me to ride on the high places of the earth and feed me 
with the heritage of Jacob, my Father.' In recalling 
this incident to me several years later she said, 'The 
passage at that time was so illuminated to me that I 
saw the "heritage of Jacob" meant leadership for Him; 



40 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

it was so quickened and applied to my own heart I knew 
it meant God-given leadership for me.' " 

This definite experience of the enduement of the Holy 
Spirit and assurance of God-given leadership never wav- 
ered; it was the dynamic that sent her out to serve with a 
joy that could say with the twentieth-century singer of 
Georgia: 

"My joyous thoughts outrun 
The driven chariot of the morning sun; 
And swift my soul would dare heights yet untrod. 
What time my feet are chained to sod 
My spirit dares to dwell these heights upon — 
The consecrate and solemn heights of God." 

At the time of her vivid experience of the presence and 
power of God, Christian thought and hope centered about 
the future life and the joy of the other world — the "light 
of eternal values cast a shade over the temporal." To her 
practical mind the fact that Christ lost his life in the "body 
of humanity to which he belonged" brought to her quick- 
ened faith a larger evaluation of human personality and the 
infinite possibilities of the people about her. Her faith was 
always childlike; she trusted God and tried tO' obey him; 
she sought to make the personal life of Christ real to man ; 
it was the Christ and not doctrine about him she tried to 
share. The law of love for her fellows became for her the 
one road to the heart of God as she measured her love to 
him by Christ's declaration: "He that loveth not his brother 
whom he hath seen cannot love God whom he hath not 
seen." It was inevitable that with her habit of love this 
new sensitiveness to spiritual currents could issue only in 
service which made the world a better place for man to work 
and live in, a place where he might grow into Godlikeness. 

Miss Bennett early learned to keep her friendship with 
God vital by constant communion with him. Prayer be- 



HER LIFE WORK 41 

came her supreme expression. She soon found that there 
was no limit to the release of divine favor when the life 
conformed to God's law of love. She was so definite and 
direct when she prayed, it was as though she talked with a 
friend waiting near her. She literally waited upon God 
that she might know his will for herself and for the work 
committed to her care. She prayed for her loved ones, and 
God only knows the strengthened hearts and enriched lives 
given to the world and the Church because she labored for 
them in prayer. "I do not fail to pray for you more and 
oftener than I can say" was the oft-repeated assurance to 
those with whom she worked. The burden of her prayers 
was for the Church, for the extension of God's kingdom 
at home and abroad, for sending forth "laborers into the 
fields white unto the harvest," and for the release of God's 
money for the work. She prayed for her critics and for 
her enemies. Once when sharing her prayer with an inti- 
mate friend, she pleaded in loving tenderness for one whose 
criticism had made her work difficult, and when surprise was 
expressed she quickly responded: "I cannot have peace with 
God if I harbor these things in my heart." 

Miss Bennett's social nature was revealed through her 
passion for sharing her prayer life with friends. All 
through the South there are women whose prayer lives 
have been quickened because of her habit of sharing periods 
of supplication with them. Mrs. Luke G. Johnson, of 
Georgia, a long-time workfellow with her, tells this beauti- 
ful story of her fellowship in prayer: 

"No one characteristic of her life is so fixed upon 
the memory of her associates as her prayer life. The 
'morning watch' was her daily habit. At the breaking 
of the day she was always found with Him. In the 
stress and strain of the unthinkable burdens which were 
hers, she ofttimes said to those nearest her : 'But for that 
early hour with Jesus this morning I don't see how I 
could have passed through this day.* Her official as- 



42 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

sociates and closest friends knew her habits, and with 
eagerness, when together with her in the hotels, they 
often timidly knocked at the door of her room in the 
early morning if perchance they might kneel around 
that bed with her. Around that bed, in prayer with her 
in the early morning hours, many victories in the work 
were fought, victories of achievement, or victories of 
spirit, as strength was found to meet defeat. Through- 
out all the years, no meeting was entered, no plan 
espoused, until at least the 'two or three' or more had 
knelt with her at Jesus' feet. Again we seem to hear 
those words to which we have listened so long: 'O 
Master, not our will, but thine be done.' " 

Miss Bennett covenanted with God's praying children to 
make special prayer for specific needs. Oftentimes she listed 
petitions with dates of month and year and verse of Scrip- 
ture claimed as the foundation of her faith. One such 

register reads: "Asheville, N. C, July 6, 1905. Mrs. 

and I asked, to be led in a plain path about the establishment 
of another training school for Christian workers. Psalm 
2^: II, the particular promise pleaded." A later entry 
records: "Another training school established by Dr. Lam- 
buth." Another record states: "Richmond, October 24, 

1907: Covenanted with Mrs. to ask God to make us 

soul winners, pleading Matthew 7: 7, 8. Ask daily, seek 
the individuals, knock at their hearts. Use Revelation 3: 
20." In the answered column this fact is noted: "First 

fruits. Mrs. asked me on the 29th of October to go 

and see . We went together October 30. I sought 

them with the Word, and all three surrendered in half an 

hour. and his mother were baptized that night ; the 

sister goes to the Christian Church." Across the margin 
is written, "Saloon keeper's family." 

The first prayer calendar issued by Southern Methodist 
women had its origin in Miss Bennett's love of sharing 
prayers with her friends. For missionary facts, scriptural 
references, and suggestions for intercession this forerun- 



HER LIFE WORK 43 

ner of prayer calendars has not been surpassed. Mrs. Mary 
Bruce Alexander, a missionary many years in Brazil and 
later a pioneer in home missions among Latin Americans, 
gives this account of how this booklet was issued: 

"In 1896 I went through the Kentucky Conference 
organizing Woman's Missionary Societies and fre- 
quently stopped between trains with Miss Bennett in 
Riclimond. In January there was a dreadful blizzard, 
and I could not go forward with my work ; so I stopped 
with her until the weather was more propitious. It 
was then, in prayer, we conceived the idea of a Prayer 
Calendar, and in two w-eeks we got it ready to print. 
I took the manuscript to Lexington to be printed and 
mailed the booklet when finished from my home." 

Miss Bennett found greatest pleasure in bearing testi- 
mony of a prayer-hearing God. "Answer to prayer has 
been so manifest and so marvelous, in a way, during the 
past year that the presence of Christ seems, nearly always, 
very consciously with me," she wrote in 1919 to her friend, 
Mrs. J. C. Lewis. Such a statement is duplicated in num- 
berless letters throughout the years. 

Early in Miss Bennett's spiritual experience she suffered 
a period of depression for which there seemed no cause. 
During this priod she visited Ocean Grove with her friends. 
Miss Mary Helm and Miss Harriet Thompson. While 
there she confided her distress to Miss Thompson, saying 
despite much heart-searching she had not been able to dis- 
cover known sin that was breaking her communion with 
God, but that her persistent prayer for relief had been un- 
availing. Miss Thompson's account of this period throws 
a flood of light upon the after-power of her influence: 

"When she told me these things I said to her : T 
think your trouble is leanness of soul, caused by lack 
of spiritual nourishment. Have you not in your busy 
life felt driven to neglect the Word of God, the food 
he has provided for your soul?' She perceived that 



44 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

this had been her difficulty and entered at once upon 
diligent Bible study, beginning with Ephesians. Very 
soon she realized that her spiritual drought ceased, that 
life was given to her messages, that leanness of soul 
was relieved, and that her peace and joy in Christ had 
returned. 

"Miss Bennett had not wholly neglected her Bible. 
She had been faithful in reading or studying it 'when 
she could find time.' But it had been crowded into 
the background of her life by Christian service. She 
had not set aside and maintained an early hour each day 
for quiet, prayerful, uninterrupted study of God's Word 
as food for the soul until she had this experience." 

Ever afterwards it was her habit to spend some time 
every day in Bible study. She memorized not only chap- 
ters for their beauty and heart comfort, but she committed 
whole books to memory. This verbal knowledge so fed 
her mind that her English reflected the classical language of 
the King James Version of the Bible. Her soul met its 
spiritual needs {perfectly in the promises of this Word of 
Words, and it so helped her to self-knowledge and self- 
analysis that she joyfully lived by it. She had no fear of 
scientific study of the Bible, but believed its hold upon the 
future generations would be strengthened by the most com- 
plete knowledge of its origin* and message. Her social 
nature reveled in sharing Bible study with others. "I have 
fotmd always that to study His Word with some one and 
get his will together in prayer strengthens me more than I 
can say," she wrote to Mrs. J. C. Lewis. To numberless 
other friends she gave testimony of her joy in such com- 
panionship. Her devoted Secretary, Miss Emily Olmstead, 
vividly describes this love of sharing her study of God's 
Word with others in her beautiful brochure, "Intimate 
Glimpses": 

"In her letters while away she often wrote: 'How I 
miss our quiet hour together each morning ! I shall be 
happy to get back home.' Immediately after break- 



HER LIFE WORK 45 

fast we always went to her room to commence the day's 
work, which varied very Httle, when she was at home, 
throughout the four years of my stay with her. First, 
always, the quiet hour together about nine o'clock. It 
was often interrupted by some member of the family 
connection ; sometimes by a friend needing help or ad- 
vice ; quite often by a telephone call ; but the lesson was 
always resumed. Occasionally, if a friend who was 
sympathetic chanced to come in, that friend was in- 
vited to share our study." 

Miss Bennett's memory work was largely confined to the 
King James Version of the Bible, though she greatly ap- 
preciated the American Edition of the Revised Version as 
being clearer to the modern mind. She welcomed the later 
translations of the New Testament as commentaries upon 
the older, more stately versions. Weymouth's was a great 
comfort in the days of her invalidism. 

Throughout the South there are thousands who remem- 
ber the unction and power of her messages and Bible 
lessons. She constantly urged the importance of earnest, 
intelligent study of God's Word, whether she spoke to audi- 
ences or to persons whom she met in social life. Miss Har- 
riet Thompson's account of an address before young 
women, which it was her privilige to hear, illustrates this 
habit of trying to persuade others to seek inspiration 
through the Word of God: 

"When in St. Louis at one time she accepted an in- 
vitation to speak on consecration at the vesper service 
of the Young Woman's Christian Association. Until 
her hour was almost past she seemed to have forgotten 
her allotted subject. From memory I recall that in the 
earlier part of the address she said: 'The subject al- 
lotted me is consecration. It is probable that a num- 
ber of you young women will become busy workers 
for Christ and will have leanness of soul as I did. I 
want to say to you that in all my Christian life I have 
encountered nothing that required such thorough, per- 
sistent, heroic consecration to God's will as the daily 
study of a sufficient portion of the Word of God to 



46 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

keep my own soul properly nourished.' She dwelt at 
length on the power and value of the Word of God as 
food for the soul. Near the close of her address she 
gave an account of the prolonged season of spiritual 
drought that left little life in her Bible talks and was 
accompanied by deep depression which she suffered in 
the midst of most strenuous service for Christ." 

Miss Bennett's insight into the meaning of Scripture, and 
unusual power of interpretation and application, made her 
a great Bible teacher. Very little remains of this work 
save that which lodged in the hearts and minds of her hear- 
ers, as she preserved few notes. She despised the mechani- 
cal drudgry of writing ; it was really difficult and slow work 
for her, and she never learned to use the typewriter ; hence 
there are few outlines or copies of those lessons which the 
Spirit used for the enrichment of many lives and for the 
outleading of laborers into the fields of service. 

She was never argumentative in presenting what she be- 
lieved the Word of God taught ; she had a way of assuming 
the concurrence of her hearers with such persuasive power 
that she impelled assent. A great part of her power was 
the fine quality of her voice, but she revealed her real secret 
in a letter to the Home Secretary of the Council in 1918, 
when she wrote: "It takes a heart life — a lived experience — 
to interpret the Word of God." Her success as teacher in 
the Sunday school, before pressure of her office interfered 
with routine work, testifies to this power of her "lived ex- 
perience," while the successful organization of a Negro 
Bible study class under the outleading of the Holy Spirit 
makes sure his acceptance of her interpretation of his 
Word. In 1906 she was driven by the Spirit, through the 
suffering of a broken-hearted friend, to the formation of a 
woman's Bible class with her friends and associates at 
Richmond, Ky. Of this Bible study class a member writes: 

"It began with only three or four women who came 
together every week to study their Bibles, and it quick- 



HER LIFE WORK 47 

ly grew to twenty-five or more. I remember that some 
minister said the textbooks she had chosen were too 
difficult for such a class, but it was quite the reverse, 
and ever>' member of the class studied the assigned 
lesson faithfully. Belle and Mrs. Roark (wife of the 
President of the Normal School) were the regular 
leaders, but soon different leaders were assigned, and 
some splendid Sunday school teachers were developed 
and great spiritual help came to all from this class." 

While she was a friend to scientific Bible study, that she 
was wise ajid cautious in methods of teaching young people 
and immature minds is shown by her letter to a young 
teacher who had submitted an outline of one of her courses: 
"It was good to get your note and general outline in the 
last mail. / like it, but know your pupils before you give 
them strong meat. Most of them will be young, imaccus- 
tomed to think for themselves, and ready to accept what you 
give them. Your word will be the law and gospel to them. 
What you say will go through them to many others. Let 
yoiLY testimony be clear and sure!'* 

Outstanding in Miss Bennett's career was the dedication 
of her life to service through the Church. It was the chan- 
nel through which she could best spread the news of sal- 
vation, and for this she believed it was created. Her re- 
gard for the Church was not that of the sectarian. She was 
a Methodist, not because it was the Church of her fathers ; 
but because she loved its evangelistic fervor and its connec- 
tional spirit, she was loyal to this branch of the Church 
universal. Her devotion to the Church of God was not 
that of the ignorant zealot, for she knew Church history 
and full well recognized the human blunders that had 
marred and hindered its divine mission in all the ages. 
The fact that God "at sundry times and in divers man- 
ners" had raised up heaven-born leaders to correct and 
overthrow the wrong, and the Church militant had tri- 
umphed, kept her faith in its divine mission unwavering. 



48 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Just how truly she considered the Church of God a divine 
institution is expressed in this paragraph of a letter to Mrs. 
L. H. Glide: "I hope neither the Red Cross with its insist- 
ent and splendid appeals, nor any other of the War Council 
work, has as yet made you feel poor. Our great Leader 
called His Church into the trenches facing all the forces of 
hell two thousand years ago, and the brave little army with 
the few recruits that join each year cannot be slackers now. 
Maybe, if he comes soon, he will put a draft law in force! 
Do you think he will ?" 

Miss Bennett's attitude toward methods of financing the 
Church was positive. In the beginning of her career as a 
Church worker her fragmentary daily journal records, with 
evident irritation of spirit, participation in a festival for 
some local Church affair. The study of the Word of 
God convinced her that tithes and offerings, stewardship of 
time and money, was God's plan for financing the kingdom, 
and as the years passed she was so convinced on this sub- 
ject that she positively suffered when devices that brought 
the Church before the public as a money-making institution 
were resorted to. When she became active in the Home 
Mission Society, in 1893, her energies were centered upon 
getting the women of the Church to study the Bible on this 
subject through a department known as Systematic Giving. 
A third of a century this educative work went forward 
through her influence. It was this habit of stewardship 
which enabled her to give so generously and to serve so 
continuously in the kingdom. 

Miss Bennett was deeply emotional. Without this charac- 
teristic she would have lacked that power of expression 
which never failed to persuade or interest her audiences. 
She found response to her emotional nature in Church 
music and the hymns that fastened special truth on the 
soul or made duty appealing by their rhythm. The study 




SAMUEL BENNETT 



HER LIFE WORK 49 

of hymnology fascinated her and fed her spiritual Hfe. 
Her love for Charles Wesley's hymn, 

"Lord, in the strength of grace 
With a glad heart and free. 
My self, my residue of days 
I consecrate to thee," 

sung to the tune of Greenwood, always renewed her con- 
secration. "J^sus, Lover of My Soul," that she learned at 
her mother's knee, and George Matheson's song of assur- 
ance, 

"O love that will not let me go, 
I rest my weary soul in thee," 

were favorite expressions of her trust in God's love, while 
Faber's verse 

"For the love of God is broader 

Than the measure of man's mind; 
And the heart of the Eternal 
Is most wonderfully kind," 

comforted and strengthened when she felt she had erred. 
When feeling the need of assurance of the Spirit's presence, 
involuntarily she sang: 

"Spirit of God! descend upon my heart; 

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh; 
Teach me the struggle of the soul to bear, 

To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh; 
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer." 

Maltbie Babcock's great hymn always incited to valor and 
renewed effort: 

"Be strong ! 
It matters not how deep intrenched the wrong, 
How hard the battle goes, the day, how long; 
Faint not, fight on ! To-morrow comes the song." 

Her faith in God's plan of using man as his workfellow 

4 



50 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

in the redemption of the world found expression in Wash- 
ington Gladden's hymn: 

"O Master, let me walk with thee 
In lowly paths of service free. 
Help me the slow of heart to move 
By some clear, winning word of love; 
Teach me the wayward feet to stay, 
And guide them in the homeward way." 

Her favorite song for her brother's children when she 
took them on her knee was: 

"I think when I read that sweet story of old. 
When Jesus was here among men, 
How he called little children like lambs to his fold, 
I should like to have been with him then." 

She taught them each verse of the hymn and rewarded 
them for learning Kipling's "Recessional." 

After Miss Bennett's experience in the marvelous illum- 
ination of Isaiah 58: 13-15, she could never fail to hallow 
the Sabbath day. It became to her a day made for man, not 
merely for rest, or to refrain from week-day occupations, 
but one for soul communion with the Father. It was on 
these days he gave her glimpses of social wrongs and 
visions of truth, and quickened her passion for great world 
tasks to which he called her to enter in fellowship with 
himself. It was from these Sabbaths of communion she 
gathered courage to tackle gigantic world problems; and 
empowered beyond her natural self, she rallied the women 
of the Church to fellowship in the task. 

What the Sabbath meant in her spiritual life was re- 
vealed to a fellow traveler one glorious Easter day in the 
wonderful Mariposa Valley of the Yosemite. For the sole 
reason that she could not travel in clear conscience, though 
there was need to press on, they tarried over Sabbath at 
the lonely little inn nestling in great banks of snow on the 



HER LIFE WORK 51 

outer rim of the old forest of great Sequoia trees. There 
were no other guests at the inn; a holy quietness rested 
upon this primeval scene fresh from the hand of God 
despite the multiplied tliousands of years since he had pro- 
nounced it good. The gospel story of the resurrection was 
the only Scripture to be studied on such a day and in the 
hands of this teacher of spirit-insight the glow of the ex- 
alted assurance of immortality through Calvary's love cast 
a never-forgotten halo about the Sunday in that valley of 
butterflies. One could not wonder after this day that she 
counted the Sabbath a delight. 

The Ensley Community House is a monument to her 
Sabbath-keeping covenant. She saw the great iron and 
steel plants for the first time early one March Monday while 
waiting for the midday train because she stopped over Sab- 
bath in Birmingham, Ala., in obedience to her agreement 
with her Lord. The great number of foreign-born work- 
men in the plants and hundreds of foreign children in the 
streets challenged her friendly spirit to a venture in friend- 
ship which eventuated in one of the largest evangelistic 
Americanization centers in the South. God gave her other 
and repeated assurance of blessing upon her work because 
of her inviolable rule of keeping the Sabbath day holy. 

It was not easy to be faithful to such a vow in a modern 
world with a life of as varied interests as was hers; just 
how difficult is made plain by a letter dated March 15, 1920, 
to Miss Mabel Howell, Secretary of Oriental Fields of the 
Woman's Missionary Council : 

"I hope you had my letter this morning — indeed, I 
am sure you did — because it should have reached Nash- 
ville yesterday. I have yours of March 13 in my 
hand now. Yes, Mrs. Ross wrote me the dates of the 
Estimates Committee meeting, March 22, 23, 24, I 
have been hoping so much that I would be well enough 
to attend that meeting that I did not realize until Satur- 
day afternoon, when the Deaconess called my attention 



52 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

to the fact, that Monday was the 226. All of these 
ten years since the organization of the Council I have 
tried to get our official friends at Nashville not to fix 
important committee meetings which I should attend 
on Monday. I do not travel on Sunday if it can pos- 
sibly be avoided. I think you know better than any 
other member of the Woman's Council just what the 
13th verse of the 58th chapter of Isaiah has meant to 
me and to my life since I made my surrender to our 
God and Father. In all of these nearly or quite thirty 
years, I have never traveled on Sunday except when I 
was on the ocean or trying to reach some member of 
the family or some loved one who was desperately ill ; or 
when I was with some party of Church people who did 
not regard the Sabbath as I must if I am true to my 
vow to God. I have a good many times during these 
past ten years been compelled to go to Louisville or 
Nashville on Saturday, spend the Sunday at the hotel, 
that I might be at the Publishing House on Monday 
morning. This of course is a double expense for me 
as well as a loss of time. In all of these years I am 
quite sure that I have not written as many as a half 
dozen notes, and never a letter, on Sunday. Of course, 
I have had to set my face like a flint, and have many a 
battle on the subject. The Church of God is the most 
destructive critic of the Word of God, in its interpre- 
tation and witness, that I know. 

"Now, dear friend, I am telling you this because I 
want you to help me as much as you can at that end of 
the line ; when I travel on Sunday, it is a direct viola- 
tion of my own conscience, and I do not fail to suffer 
from it." 

Mrs. Luke Johnson gives this graphic picture of a Sab- 
bath in Europe where, as members of a Church Commis- 
sion, she and Miss Bennett were traveling immediately after 
the World War: 

"To some of her closest friends who did not so re- 
gard this holy day and felt that she sometimes afflicted 
herself in its keeping, she would reply: 'You may not 
hold the Sabbath day holy, sacred unto Him, but as for 
me it is my delight — it is his. So thorough was this 
consecration and fidelity to her vow that she refused 



HER LIFE WORK 53 

to open her mail on the Sabbath day, to speak her own 
words, or to find her own pleasure. She suffered vis- 
ible pain if long continental or world-wide travel ne- 
cessitated her continuous going on the Sabbath day. 
Some who were with her much recall these days — days 
beyond her control — but given to reading his words, 
singing his songs, and 'talking to him.' 

"This friend can ne'er forget one Sabbath day land- 
ing with her in Liverpool, following the party across 
England to London — a half day's journey in an Eng- 
lish compartment car. We seem to see her now on that 
Sabbath afternoon nestling close to the friend in the 
corner of the compartment that others might not be dis- 
turbed, refusing to read the daily paper, but pouring out 
God's Word as it was hid in her heart, and with the 
friend, singing softly his precious promises, even in 
the midst of the din and roar of the railway car! The 
Sabbath day? It was sacred to her. It was her 'de- 
light,* as she delighted herself in him. And verily, he 
caused her to ride upon the high places of the earth, 
and he fed her with the heritage of the saints of old — 
for the mouth of the Lord had spoken it." 

It was this faith in the power and presence of the Holy 
Spirit, this love and study of God's Word and obedience to 
his will, that determined the way of life for Belle Harris 
Bennett. It brought her that marvelous trust and confi- 
dence in God which imparted that audacious faith with 
which she ventured to build great enterprises in his name. 
It gave her amazing faith in the women and children of the 
Church — in mankind — through whom she launched "great 
things and difficult." It so fed her spirit with God's mar- 
velous love that she spent herself in spontaneous and un- 
calculating love for his children. 



CHAPTER III 

BUILDING A MISSIONARY TRAINING SCHOOL 

The years 1887 to 1893 were the most significant in the 
life of Belle Harris Bennett, as they were also of the ut- 
most consequence to the missionary operations of the 
women of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was 
in these years God opened her eyes, in the "Valley of Vi- 
sion," to the need of skilled laborers in mission fields, and in 
unmistakable terms called her to lead the women of the 
Church into the establishment of a school where mission- 
aries might be prepared for this difficult service. The 
story of this outleading of the Spirit is given in her own 
words in an interview concerning the Scarritt Bible and 
Training School, which fortunately has been preserved: 

"When I first became Interested in the missionary 
work my sister and I went to Carlisle, Ky., in the year 
1887 to a missionary meeting. I heard there about our 
missionaries who had been sent out and could not help 
being impressed as to how they could do efficient work 
without any preparation and without a knowledge of the 
language. I thought and prayed about it until the 
thing burned itself into my heart. I talked with Miss 
Mary Helm and Mrs. Trueheart about it, and later on, 
I learned that Mrs. Lucy Rider Meyer, of Chicago, 
had returned from one of the mission fields in South 
America so burdened with the thought of the untrained 
workers being sent out that she and her husband had 
opened a small faith school in Chicago for the prepara- 
tion of workers. I wrote to her and received the first 
little printed notice that she sent out for her school. 

"The following summer I attended the New York 
Chautauqua and became a member of a class under 
Dean Wright, of Boston. I had thought and prayed 
so much over the establishment of a training school 
while there that after I returned from Chautauqua the 

(54) 




MRS. ELIZABETH CHENAULT BENNETT 



HER LIFE WORK 55 

conviction that this was the voice of God so deepened 
that one night as I lay in bed I suddenly sat upright 
responding in audible voice : 'Yes, Lord, I will do it.' 
A long illness followed. The annual meeting of the 
Kentucky Conference Woman's Missionary Society 
was held in Richmond in 1888, and I went in to the 
meeting, still somewhat invalided. There was no Re- 
cording Secretary, and I was selected to fill the place. 
At the close of the meeting I was elected President of 
the Conference Society. 

"The Woman's Board of Foreign Missions met at 
Little Rock, Ark., in 1889, and at the urgent invitation 
of Mrs. S. C. Trueheart, a member of the Board from 
Kentucky, I went with her to that meeting to present my 
thought of a missionar)' training school. I had been 
made a member of the Committee on Examination of 
Missionary Candidates. Miss Helen Richardson, who 
was a missionary volunteer for appointment that year, 
met us in St. Louis, and we proceeded to examine her. 
My own part of the examination consisted in asking 
how much she knew of the Bible, how she had learned 
it, and how she had expected to teach it to a great peo- 
ple who had a religion of their own. She said she 
didn't know anything much. She was a district school- 
teacher and had always attended Sunday school and 
had heard of the wretched condition of the women in 
heathen lands, lands where there was no knowledge of 
Jesus Christ. 

"After reaching Little Rock I talked with Miss Mary 
Helm, who was then living in the home of Mrs. D. H. 
McGavock, General Secretary of the Women's Board of 
Foreign Missions, and she became greatly interested and 
very urgent for me to present the cause to the women. 
She and Mrs. Trueheart arranged for me to have a time 
before the Board. 

"I was a guest in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Thomp- 
son who were devoted members of the Methodist 
Church. Miss Nannie Holding and other missionary 
women, all strangers to me, were guests in the same 
home. Miss Holding, hearing of what was in my heart 
and knowing the great need herself, asked me the morn- 
ing before I was to talk on the subject to go to her 
room that she might pray with me. She did so and gave 
me the passage : 'Commit thy work unto the Lord and 
thy thoughts shall be established.' It became the 



56 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

promise on which Scarritt Bible and Training School 
was built. I was too sick and frightened to stand on 
my feet when I was called to speak before the Board. 
The President, Mrs. Juliana Hayes, seeing my condi- 
tion, rose out of her chair and said: 'Come right here. 
Miss Bennett, sit down in this chair, and talk it over 
with us.' I did it, but stood when I became excited. 
I poured out the whole thought of my heart. I talked 
to them about the splendid training that was given 
doctors and lawyers and professional men of all kinds, 
yet we were trying to send out young men and women 
to the great dark lands to teach a new religion that 
they themselves knew nothing about. When I finished 
a few questions were asked and a prayer was called for 
in which Mrs. Nathan Scarritt, of Kansas City, Mo., 
led, asking God that we might have a training school 
for our missionaries." 

Miss Bennett's depth of feeling, dear thought, and per- 
suasive power of expression moved upon the mind and 
sympathies of the members of the Board. They w^ere con- 
vinced of the injustice to the missionaries, and to the 
fields, of sending them out untested and imtrained to meet 
the problems of presenting a new religion to peoples of 
ether hoary faiths. Although they realized the difficulties 
involved, they promptly adopted the following resolution: 

^'Resolved, That the Board has heard Miss Bennett's 
address with pleasure and, recognizing the great im- 
portance of its subject, does hereby appoint her as 
agent of the Woman's Board of Foreign Missions of 
the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to fully investi- 
gate the matter of a training school for missionaries and 
does empower her to present its claims throughout the 
Church, to enlist the sympathy and aid of workers, and 
to collect funds, reporting results to the Board. 

"Resolved, That she be directed also to present this 
matter to other Mission Boards and to ask their interest 
and patronage with the view that their missionaries 
may have the benefit of the advantages thus secured. 

"Resolved, That Miss Bennett be furnished by this 
Board with all necessary credentials to show that she 
is its duly appointed agent." 



HER LIFE WORK 57 

This swift response to her plea startled Miss Bennett. 
She had thought her work would be accomplished when the 
message was delivered. She had not expected that she 
would be called into the execution of that for which she had 
thought and prayed so many months. Imemdiately she 
arose, saying: "But, ladies, I don't know how to do it; I 
don't know the Church, nor do I know how to begin." She 
was inexperienced, and there was no precedent in the Church 
to follow. It seemed an impossible task ! But as she spoke 
she remembered the vow to God that she would do the 
work ; she realized she must forget her fears and feeling of 
unfitness. The friends who had brought her there en- 
couraged her, and the women of the Board volunteered to 
support her by their prayers and efforts; and again she 
said in deepest humility: "Yes, Lord, I will do it." She 
stepped out upon the promise that had come to her in the 
morning through Miss Holding and committed her work 
unto God. 

Immediately after the Board voted to begin a training 
school, Mrs. Nathan Scarritt rose and made an offering of 
fifty dollars for the new enterprise. This was quickly fol- 
lowed by pledges of one hundred dollars each by Mrs. Adam 
Hendrix and Mrs. E. C. Dowdell and Mrs. Hayes; Mrs, J. 
B. Cobb and Mrs. C. H. Hall each promised fifty dollars, 
and Miss Mary Helm gave twenty-five; others pledged 
until about five hundred dollars were given. It was de- 
termined at this meeting that the regular funds of the 
Missionary Society could not be used for the new school, 
as they were needed for its operations in foreign fields. 
The Board directed that "auxilicuries slwiild not make 
pledges for it, but that members should be urged to give 
liberally as htdividuals, and to make every effort to secure 
funds for the school. It was urged that this should be 
done at once and collections taken wherever available." 



58 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

All moneys and names of donors were ordered sent direct 
to Miss Belle H. Bennett. 

The evening after Miss Bennett's address to the Board 
Julia Dortch, the adopted daughter of Dr. Thompson, laid 
a silver dollar beside her plate at the dinner table, saying: 
"Miss Bennett, I have been waiting on the table since you 
came, and Auntie gave me a dollar for it. I heard you talk 
about how Jesus went about doing good and helping people 
when he was in the world and how we can do it too, and I 
want to do like Jesus did ; I want to give you this dollar to 
help you build that training school.'* It was the first money 
actually paid in to the training school. "That dollar was 
seed planted that brought many hundreds of other dollars 
as I told the story of the little girl," was a frequent com- 
ment when Miss Bennett talked of these, her pioneer days 
in leadership. The second gift came to her immediately 
after the meeting in Little Rock, which also Miss Bennett 
called "seed corn that brought a bountiful harvest." 

"While with my friends in St. Louis I was urged 
to visit one of the shut-in saints who had been confined 
to her bed a long time, a woman of wonderful prayer 
life. While in this upper chamber, I told her the story 
of Little Rock and my thought of a training school. 
Putting her hand feebly under her pillow she took out 
a small paper, and from it a five-dollar gold piece, say- 
ing: 'I have been waiting for the Lord to show me 
where he wanted me to put this, and now he has done 
it.' " 

Robert Louis Stevenson's maxim, "Acts can be forgiven ; 
not even God can forgive the hangerback," was ever an 
established principle with Miss Bennett. To recognize duty 
and to assume responsibility meant immediate action; and 
while she was keenly sensitive to her insufficiency for the 
untried task into which she had been thrust, she had not 
left Little Rock without some definite plan for her new 
employ. Her heart and thought turned to Misses Mette 



HER LIFE WORK 59 

and Harriet Thompson, and she thus tells of going to St. 
Louis, where they were then living: 

"I stopped for a brief visit in St. Louis on my return 
journey home. This visit was to friends who were 
filled with the Holy Spirit and whose touch had meant 
everything in a spiritual way to me. I told them what 
had occurred at Little Rock and immediately the sug- 
gestion was made that this ought to go into the Church 
papers. With another great struggle, I wrote my first 
article for a Methodist Advocate, telling of the action 
of the Board in Little Rock and expressing something of 
what I felt was the great need for our missionary work. 
It was printed in the St. Louis Christian Advocate. 
The day after I reached my home in Kentucky two 
letters came to me through the mail; one of these was 
from a gentleman in Winston-Salem, N. C, saying he 
had read the article and inclosed a check for the pro- 
posed training school. The second letter was from 
Mrs. S. C. Trueheart, asking me to come the following 
day to Parkhill Camp Ground, as Mr. Sam Jones was 
there for a few days and she wanted me to meet and 
know him as well as attend a woman's missionary meet- 
ing to be held in the auditorium. I had never attended 
a camp meeting and was loath to go. I took the train 
for the camp ground, however, and was met at the gate 
by Mrs. Trueheart. A few moments later I was in- 
troduced to Mr. Jones. We talked of the woman's 
meeting which was to be held in the afternoon, and 
Mrs. Trueheart spoke to him of my appointment by the 
Board to establish a missionary training school. He 
was immediately interested and insisted that I was to 
tell the audience about it after he had spoken. The 
time came, and before a great audience Mr. Jones in- 
troduced Mrs. Trueheart and me, saying that I had 
something to tell them. As best I could, I again told 
the story of my own thoughts, God's call to me, and 
the resolution of the Woman's Board. I had scarcely 
finished when Mr. Jones said : 'Now I know that it's 
against the law to take up a collection on this camp 
ground, but this is the greatest thing I have heard of in 
the Church since I have been at work in it, and there 
is no law in the world against a collection taking up a 
man or woman, and we must have money ; how are you 
going to take it, Miss Bennett?' My answer, as I re- 



6o BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

call was, 'I would like every woman and girl in South- 
ern Methodism to have a part in it.' 'AH right,' he said, 
'I want to give five hundred dollars for Mrs. Jones, and 
pay it in a hundred dollars each year.' Instantly I an- 
swered, 'I will be glad to take it in that way. I will 
keep an account of every subscription, and notify all 
who give at the end of each year, for five years. I 
would rather have one dollar a year from every woman 
in the Church for five years than to have the full 
amount required to establish the institution given by one 
person.' Mr. Jones then said, 'Miss Bennett, you and 
Mrs. Trueheart sit down here on this platform and let 
the people bring you the money,' They came, men and 
women and children, giving from twenty-five cents a 
year up to ten dollars, and a few as much as twenty- 
five dollars a year for five years. Something more than 
a thousand dollars were pledged at this meeting." 

The leadership of the Holy Spirit in this work was mani- 
fest in the enthusiastic, joyous giving wherever she made 
an appeal. At Cartersville, Ga., the home of Mr. Sam 
Jones, she attended the annual camp meeting shortly after 
the Parkhill Camp Ground experience, where a good sub- 
scription was given. Quoting again from Miss Bennett's 
words this enthusiasm is noted: 

"Wherever I talked gifts of money or subscriptions 
were made. At Greenville and Meridian, Miss., as I 
sat on the edge of the platform, men and women came 
up, took ofif their watches and other jewelry, and with 
money and subscription notes to the amount of some- 
thing more than three thousand dollars were poured 
into my lap. Thousands of dollars were given when- 
ever I went to Mr. Jones's meetings. Churches also 
were visited, many of them at the invitation of the 
missionary women, where I was given a few moments 
after the sermon to speak to the audience. The gifts 
were not large, very few giving as much as five hun- 
dred dollars each." 

It will easily be seen that Miss Bennett needed clerical 
help in a work that involved continuous correspondence and 
the keeping of records of multiplied varying amounts of 



HER LIFE WORK 6i 

money through a period of five years. She was most ably 
assisted by Miss Lucile Crooke, of Richmond, Ky., whose 
personal interest and efficiency added greatly to the success 
of the movement. Miss Bennett's generous spirit could not 
be content with help like this without giving full credit, and 
throughout the Church Miss Crooke was known and hon- 
ored for her service. Returned missionaries were Miss 
Bennett's heartiest supporters, and many of them confessed 
the unhappy handicaps they had suffered on the fields be- 
cause of insufficient preparation. These stories Miss 
Bennett used with great effect in presenting the need for 
the institution for which she was working. 

Gifts and subscriptions were made by many individuals 
who were not Methodists, because they were moved by her 
burning zeal and the importance of the work. Miss Lucia 
Burnam gives this account of a donation from a stranger: 
"While on her way to Kansas City, just previous to Scar- 
ritt's being located there. Miss Bennett got into conversa- 
tion with a man on the train, to whom she told the story of 
the training school. He showed much interest in the plans 
of the school and asked many questions. Six months later 
she received a check for a thousand dollars from him for 
the new enterprise." 

At the time Miss Bennett was raising this money she was 
tall and slender, with clear-cut features upon which intel- 
lect, humor, and sweetness of spiritual power played at will. 
Her unmistakable gentle breeding and dignity of bearing 
were great assets in her presentation of this cause; they 
disarmed prejudice and commanded respect. The effective- 
ness of her appeal also was due to clearness of thought, sin- 
cerity of conviction, and persuasive power which she pos- 
sessed in unusual degree. She never argued, but took the 
vantage ground that her audience was party to her objec- 
tive. Through all the years of her public service Miss 
Bennett seldom wrote her speeches; she made the subject 



62 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

matter clear to her own mind and thought accurately, and 
was herself swayed by the response she rarely failed to re- 
ceive from an audience. She never passed beyond certain 
nerve shock in public speaking, which was followed by sleep- 
less, restless nights. 

Within a few months after the Board appointed Miss 
Bennett as agent to establish the training school, the minis- 
ters of Louisville, Ky., invited the Board to locate the 
training school there, proffering to rent or secure a build- 
ing ; Dr. W. B. Palmore proposed Central College, Lexing- 
ton, Mo., as the site and plant for the new school. The 
Trustees of Martha Washington College, Abingdon, Va., 
and Drs. Price and Kelley, of the College for Young Ladies 
in Nashville, Tenn., offered inducements to the Board to 
establish the school at their respective locations. Capt. 
and Mrs. J. E. Ray, of Ashville, N. C, offered their prop- 
erty near the city, and Dr. John W. Mathews invited the 
Board to locate the school at First Church parsonage, St. 
Louis, Mo. From Mrs. Isabella Hendrix, mother of 
Bishop Hendrix and one of the managers of the Woman's 
Board of Foreign Missions, came a letter reporting a con- 
versation with Dr. Nathan Scarritt, of Kansas City, in 
which he proposed to give sufficient land and considerable 
money for the school if located in Kansas City. She urged 
Miss Bennett to come at once and discuss the matter with 
them. Miss Bennett made the trip, but she stopped at 
Louisville and also at St. Louis to investigate the proposi- 
tions of these cities. She gives this account of her visit to 
Kansas City: 

"I was met at the train by Dr. Scarritt and was a 
guest in his home for more than a week. On the Sab- 
bath evening during that visit we walked over to the 
beautiful hill top overlooking the bluffs of the Missouri 
River and Kansas City, Kans. (he, Mrs. Scarritt, and 
myself), and he said to me: 'If you like this, I will give 
you here whatever you think is necessary for the es- 



HER LIFE WORK 63 

tablishment of a training school.' His splendid, gifted 
wife, the child of a missionary in India, was the in- 
spiration of this gift, and always the strong supporter 
and friend of the Scarritt Bible and Training School 
after its establishment." 

As a result of this visit Dr. Scarritt made the following 
proposition to the Board : 

"I propose to give a plot of ground in East Melrose, 
which is an addition to Kansas City; said ground is 
on the corner of Woodward and Harris Streets, front- 
ing South 200 feet on Harris Street and running back 
about 170 feet. I also propose to give $25,000 in money 
on condition that the Woman's Board of Missions raise 
an additional $25,000, all to be spent in erecting build- 
ings and improving the ground, payments to be made 
on my part in the same amounts and as often as those 
made on the part of the Board. 

If the Board accepts the proposition and makes the 
location here, I will give at once a bond for deed, and 
will give the Board a clear title when the said amount 
of $50,000 shall have been spent in the buildings and 
improvements upon the grounds, provided this is done 
within five years." 

The Board, at a called meeting early in November, 1889, 
accepted this generous proposition "with deepest gratitude 
and heartiest thanks." Dr. Scarritt was requested to "act 
as chairman of the Building Committee, composed of him- 
self and Miss Bennett and a third person selected by them- 
selves." Circular letters were sent to Conference Corre- 
sponding Secretaries urging them to present this new enter- 
prise to their respective societies and Churches. At the 
request of the Board Mrs. M. D. Wightman, then Vice 
President, visited the Conferences of the Southeast and 
most ably assisted in creating an interest in the school. Be- 
fore the end of that first year Miss Bennet and Mrs. Wight- 
man had secured pledges that aggregated twenty-five thou- 
sand dollars, and much of it had been collected. Miss Ben- 
nett made a second visit to Kansas City to confer with the 



64 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Building Committee. They visited hospitals, schools, and 
other public buildings in various cities, inspecting types and 
plans. Finally plans for the building were begun. 

The generous response to this venture in missionary train- 
ing generated opposition, however, for the General Secre- 
tary and some other officials of the Board feared it would 
cripple the collections for the foreign work. Most of the 
promoters of the society were conservative Southern 
women, and some were opposed to locating the school so 
far west. This opposition became active when the bond for 
deed, framed in accordance with Miss Bennett's vision and 
Dr. and Mrs. Scarritt's desire, conveyed the property "to 
certain trustees for the location of a training school for 
home and foreign missionaries, for the purpose of educat- 
ing and. training missionaries for their work in both home 
and foreign fields." It was immediately declared that the 
constitution of the Woman's Missionary Society precluded 
the acceptance of the terms of the deed, since the objective 
of the society was "to enlist and unite the efforts of women 
and children in sending the gospel to the women and chil- 
dren in heathen lands." It was also claimed that the mere 
quorum of the Board that accepted Dr. Scarritt's gift was 
not authorized to do all the things which the Board could 
do in annual session. 

Miss Bennett, Dr. Scarritt, and Miss Mary Helm con- 
tended that the Woman's Board had already infringed upon 
the letter of its law in establishing missions in Mexico, 
which was not a heathen land, and among the Indians in 
the United States. To offset this contention the fact was 
cited that the Woman's Board was subordinate to the Gen- 
eral Board and therefore followed in the wake of its mis- 
sions. The General Secretary of the Board, who was its 
legal agent, held tenaciously to this constitutional objection, 
in which she was upheld by legal advice and by one of the 
strongest bishops of the Church. The bishop's opposition 



HER LIFE WORK 65 

was phrased in the inquiry: "Who is this Miss Bennett 
anyway? By what authority is she going through the 
Church collecting money?" It is not strange that the spirit 
of this inexperienced leader should have suffered from 
such unexpected criticism and opposition. For six months 
the way seemed blocked for any progress in the cause to 
which she had unmistakably been called. Miss Harriet 
Thompson gives this graphic description of this serious 
situation: 

"Miss Bennett's implicit obedience to the guidance 
of the Holy Spirit made that guidance effectual in her 
leadership. It was in connection with the Training 
School that one of her severest lessons in unswerving, 
heroic obedience was learned. When, in accordance 
with her appointment by the Woman's Board of Foreign 
Missions, she had received valuable contributions from 
a number of the Methodist Churches, she found her- 
self confronted with what seemed to her insurmount- 
able difficuhies. She visited my sister and me while 
in the midst of her perplexities; she said to us : T need 
prayer. It seems impossible for me to go forward, and 
yet I do not see how I can be honest if I abandon the 
work. I cannot return the money and the jewelry that 
have been given, for I have no list of many of the 
donors.' A group of devout Christians was asked to 
our home to unite in intercession for her. When the 
prayer service was ended, a deeply spiritual man said: 
'Miss Bennett, do you feel sure that God called you to 
this work, when you undertook it?' She answered that 
she was very sure. 'Has he since called you to lay it 
down?' 'No,* was the reply. 'Circumstances have 
seemed to make it impossible, but I have no call from 
God to give it up.' "Then you will have to go on with 
it until he tells you to stop.' 

"She grasped the great principle of guidance, that 
when once God has called a Christian to a post in his 
service, there must he no resigning until he himself in 
some way clearly indicates that the set task is done. 
She went forward in the midst of what seemed in- 
superable hindrances and never faltered again, though 
some of her friends know how often she drank the 
bitter cup of trials, oppositions, and perplexities that 



66 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

would have overwhelmed her but for God's gracious 
upholding." 

These difficulties were adjusted by the General Confer- 
ence at St. Louis in May, 1890, when it granted constitu- 
tional amendments which authorized the establishment of 
the Training School. This action was in response to a 
memorial from the Woman's Board of Missions, which was 
in annual session in St. Louis at the time. When it was 
known that the memorial had been granted, an executive 
session was called to determine whether to proceed with 
the work. Dr. Scarritt was invited to speak, and with 
great emotion he told the story of how God had led him 
to make this proposition to the women; he regretted the 
delay but renewed his offer. He was in feeble health and 
returned to Kansas City that night. Later in the meeting 
of the Board an overwhelming majority vote was cast to 
accept Dr. Scarritt's offer and to proceed with the erection 
of the building. Dr. Scarritt died a few days later, but not 
before Bishop Hendrix assured him: *Tt is all right with the 
Training School. The Woman's Board has voted that it 
shall go on." When the news of his death reached St. Louis 
the women promptly decided to call the institution the 
Scarritt Bible and Training School. 

The Scarritt family generously and promptly carried out 
the purpose of their venerable father in this noble gift. 
Nearly a year after the General Conference Miss Ben- 
nett's fragmentary diary quotes from a letter received from 
Bishop Hendrix as follows: "The contract for the grading 
and excavation of the lots for the foundation of the Train- 
ing School has been let, and the work will begin in the morn- 
ing (April 28, 1891). Some friends, missionary ladies and 
others, will gather at the site and after a suitable prayer, 
the breaking of the ground will begin." Thank God that 
the work has begun. 

The burden of the building fund having been lifted by 



HER LIFE WORK 67 

the happy response to her personal appeals, Miss Bennett 
turned her attention toward raising scholarships, lecture- 
ships, and endowment funds for the Training School, as 
the General Conference authorization did not include sup- 
port of the institution. The June 24, 1891, entry of her 
diary says: **Wrote circular letter to Conference Secre- 
taries asking them to begin scholarships and lectureships. 
Sue helped." For several years the Sunday School Board 
gave her permission to take collections for the endowment 
funds in the Sunday schools throughout the connection. 
One entry states: "At Easter time I wrote letters to the 
Sunday school superintendents throughout the Church ask- 
ing that the collection be taken on that Sunday for the 
Training School. The mail going to the Sunday schools in 
all the churches was so heavy it had to be taken to the post 
office in a wheelbarrow." The response, however, was so 
splendid that thousands of dollars were collected. 

In 1895 Miss Bennett and Mrs. Wightman finished the 
task of collecting moneys and turned over to the Board 
of Managers of the school $52,394.58 for the endowment 
fund ; this was augmented by $20,000 given by the Confer- 
ence Societies for the Belle Bennett Chair, which maintained 
the Bible Department. A joke she greatly loved to tell was 
the request of a dear old lady when visiting the Training 
School to "see that awful fine chair the women had bought 
for Miss Bennett." To these endowment funds were added 
$55,000 for eleven lectureships. There were also nineteen 
endowed scholarships and a small student loan fund. 
From a mere money standpoint the work of this leader of 
women in her first public trust is most remarkable. 

At the laying of the corner stone, July 2, 1891, Dr. W. 
H. Potter, Secretary of the Board of Missions, makes these 
comments on Miss Bennett's work: 

"The originator of the enterprise was appointed 
Financial Agent to raise funds with which to start it. 



68 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

There was not a dollar in the treasury; the mind of 
the Church respecting it was not known ; a female fiscal 
agent with connectional relations was a thing unknown 
to the Church ; yet with a heart strong in the Lord and 
in the conviction of a great duty, she went forward. Her 
success under such circumstances has been so phe- 
nomenal as to convict of blindness those who could not 
see that God was with her. Miss Belle H. Bennett, 
of Richmond, Ky., the Financial Agent, deserves and 
will receive the thanks of this and many generations for 
the inception and progress of this great work. No doubt 
she has already received the approval of her own con- 
science and her Lord. Miss Bennett has had many 
noble and worthy coadjutors, too many to be named 
here; but her singular strength of purpose, her simple 
faith, and quiet courage gave heart and hope to them 
all." 

The Board of Managers of the Scarritt Bible and Train- 
ing School elected Miss Laura Haygood principal at its 
meeting in 189 1. It was thought that Miss Bennett would 
surely be the principal, but she refused utterly tO' consider 
it ; she could not leave her mother permanently, and of her 
unfitness for the line of leadership which involved execution 
of detail she was most positive. Bishop Haygood earnest!}/ 
desired that his sister should be recalled from China to be- 
come principal because she was unquestionably the best 
prepared woman in the Church for this venture in the field 
of education. He felt also she could not live long in China. 
Miss Bennett set her heart upon Miss Haygood's appoint- 
ment by the Board. Miss Bennett's wonderful powers of 
leadership never removed from her that humanness which 
always endears the great to- ordinary folk. It is with 
amusement and comfort that one finds her lapsing into 
feminine consolation in this entry in her diary, June 3, 
1891 : "I told Dr. Reid of Miss Haygood's election and had 
such a demonstration from him and Mrs. Trueheart that I 
could not help crying. Later on read my scripture lesson 
text for the day and was strengthened and comforted: 



HER LIFE WORK 69 

Isaiah 41: 10; Deuteronomy 31: 6; Psalm 145: 18, 19; 
Hebrews 13: 16." 

The Woman's Board of Foreign Missions felt Miss Hay- 
good could not be spared from China, and Mrs. D. H. Mc- 
Gavock strongly recommended Miss M. L. Gibson, the 
principal of a private high grade school in Covington, Ky. 
Bishop Hendrix and Miss Bennett visited Miss Gibson and 
induced her to give up the splendid work she was doing to 
accept the principalship of the Scarritt Bible and Training 
School. The Board of Managers of the new school met 
during the annual meeting of the Woman's Board of 
Foreign Missions in 1892 and elected her with full ap- 
proval of the society. The spiritual and refining influence 
of Miss Gibson was a great contribution to the student life 
of the school; it created an atmosphere of fidelity and 
beauty which remained with the missionaries long after they 
were anchored in their fields of service. 

The acme of Miss Bennett's dream was reached when the 
building, finished, furnished in part, and free of debt, was 
ready for dedication, September 14, 1892. The feminine 
quality of her character is revealed in this description of 
her eagerness to inspect the building upon her arrival the 
night before the doors were thrown open to the public: 

"We were without gas, owing to some misunder- 
standing about laying the pipes. We had a number of 
lamps, but not a sufficient number to dispel the dark- 
ness of the great halls. Miss Bennett could not wait 
until morning before viewing the building. We all 
followed in their wake as she and Miss Gibson made the 
grand tour; and although our lamp had a good 
Rochester burner, it made little impression on the dark- 
ness around, and our procession was rather ghostly." 

The dedicatory exercises were held at Melrose Church, 
several blocks distant. At the close of this service Bishop 
Hendrix and Bishop Galloway led the audience to the 



70 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Memorial Chapel, where the ceremony of setting aside the 
new building for specific use was concluded. There, under 
the colorful gleam of the memorial window to Dr. Nathan 
Scarritt, Bishop Hendrix, President of the Board of Man- 
agers, received the keys from Judge E. L. Scarritt, of the 
Board of Trustees of the Scarritt Bible and Training 
School. 

The School was formally opened on the day of dedica- 
tion, with an enrollment of three students. Through the 
years that followed the opening of the school Miss Ben- 
nett refrained from having part in the internal manage- 
ment. For its large life she was ever insistent, and through 
the Board of Managers, of which she was Vice President, 
she urged and planned for enlargement when there was 
need of advancement. 

The members of the Woman's Board of Home Missions 
can never forget her challenge to their loyalty at the Board 
meeting in 1901, when she turned to Miss Emily Allen (now 
Mrs. Siler) and said abruptly in the midst of some platform 
utterance: "Miss Emily Allen, I want you to go to Scarritt 
to teach Christian Sociology." She had not consulted the 
principal of the school nor had she mentioned the subject to 
Miss Allen. To the thoughtful the rapid economic develop- 
ment of the South was creating a demand for changed meth- 
ods of the Church's approach to segregated industrial com- 
munities. In her hours of waiting before God Miss Bennett 
had been shown that a closer knowledge of the problenis 
of human society and technical instruction in helping to re- 
lieve or reconstruct social conditions was of prime impor- 
tance to the women who were to lead in religious work. 
She believed this instruction might be given through the 
newly developing science of sociology. The Scarritt Bible 
and Training School was the property of the Woman's 
Foreign Missionary Society, and its appeal had been more 
directly to students for foreign missions, but with a new 



HER LIFE WORK yi 

South unfolding before her eyes she saw clearly that mis- 
sionaries for the home field must be called and also have 
special preparation. This apparently impulsive statement to 
Miss Allen was her method of calling the Woman's Board 
of Home Miseions into cooperation in the management and 
support of the Training School. This challenge resulted 
in the adoption of a resolution by the Board at that meet- 
ing, which authorized the establishment of a chair of 
sociolog}^ at the Scarritt Bible and Training School upon 
the consent of the management of the school. This de- 
partment became one of vital importance to students for 
both home and foreign fields. 

Courses of instruction varied with the developments of 
years. Miss Bennett's insistence upon the need of histor- 
ical and spiritual understanding of the Bible and the knowl- 
edge of its use in personal work gave emphasis to the 
Biblical Department. Church history, history of mis- 
sions, religious pedagogy, methods of work, phonetics, 
hymnology, and bookkeeping were included in the curricu- 
lum. A small hospital furnished opportunity for the train- 
ing of nurses at one period, but the difficulty of financing 
it, because it was so small, led to its discontinuance in 1905. 
Miss Bennett and Mrs. Lucy Ryder Meyer, pioneers in 
building schools for training missionaries, saw their in- 
stitutions duplicated by seventy-two other denominational 
training schools in less than twenty-five years. 

In the first thirty years after the service flag was hoisted 
over Scarritt Bible and Training School more than a thou- 
sand women went out from its walls to all parts of the 
world, many of them skilled w^orkmen for the Lord. It 
was Miss Bennett's first realized vision; and while God 
opened her eyes to others which she as splendidly accom- 
plished, she cared for no other institution or enterprise so 
tenderly. She loved Scarritt with the jealous care of a 
fond mother, for it was purchased with the travail of her 



-^2 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

soul. She was wont to say of this institution: "There were 
days when I longed for death to relieve me of the responsi- 
bility of persuading the Church that missionaries needed 
training for their work. I was as literally driven of the 
Holy Spirit to establish the Training School as was Paul 
into Macedonia." 



CHAPTER IV 
A SACRED HERITAGE 

The persons in Southern Methodism who first saw the 
need of its womanhood in organized connectional work for 
the homeland were Bishop R. K. Hargrove and Dr. David 
Morton, first Corresponding Secretary of the Board of 
Church Extension. On their recommendation a Woman's 
Department of Church Extension was created by the Gener- 
al Conference, May 21, 1886, for the purpose of enlisting 
the women to raise moneys to build parsonages on the fron- 
tiers and in needy sections of the older Conferences. Miss 
Lucinda Helm was appointed Secretary of this new depart- 
ment to work through Conference Corresponding Secreta- 
ries in organizing societies throughout the connections. 

At the first annual session of the Kentucky Conference 
after the creation of this Woman's Department of the 
Board of Church Extension, Miss Sue A. Bennett was ap- 
pointed Corresponding Secretary for the Conference. The 
regulations for this new organization were meager, and its 
development in the Conferences depended upon the initiative 
and energy of the Corresponding Secretary. The women of 
the Church at that time had limited experience in connec- 
tional work, and their interest had so centered upon the 
spiritual destitution of darker nations that they were loath 
to undertake what seemed, superficially, an unnecessary 
task in the homeland. 

Miss Sue Bennett entered upon her new task with great 
enthusiasm, and the records show that she was very suc- 
cessful in creating a following for this new womans' work. 
Her painstaking investigations concerning the need of par- 
sonages within her own Conference's bounds brought to 

(73) 



74 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

her attention, several counties without Qiurches of any de- 
nomination and large areas in the mountains where dense 
ignorance prevailed. She soon gained the hearty support 
of the preachers, whose interest in her work is revealed by 
Rev. C. J. Nugent's account in the Christian Advocate 
(Nashville) of her report at the Kentucky Conference in 
1890: "Miss Sue Bennett addressed the Conference on the 
Woman's Church Extension work, especially as to par- 
sonages, in a chaste and beautiful style, which captured the 
audience. No speech delivered during the session so com- 
pletely held the attention of the hearers." The Lexington 
J^eader, the secular paper where the Conference was held, 
also reported her address with these comments: 

"One of the most interesting addresses of the session 
was made this morning by Miss Sue Bennett, of White 
Hall. She is Secretary of the Woman's Department of 
Church Extension. Miss Bennett pleaded for assistance 
in the work of evangelizing the mountain counties of 
this State, especially in the work of building parsonages. 
The picture she drew of the ignorance pervading these 
districts was startling in its revelations. Her voice is 
of a timbre as rare as it is sweet, and the sensation felt 
at the close of her remarks was similar to that experi- 
enced by one awakening from some delightful dream." 

Notwithstanding the difficulties of getting this work 
launched, the women through their parsonage grants ac- 
quired information concerning conditions in the United 
States which so challenged them tO' larger activity that they 
could not be satisfied to work through the meager outlet 
furnished by the Woman's Department of Church Exten- 
sion. Dr. David Morton sympatliized with their desire for 
greater liberty of action and directed the attention of the 
General Conference of 1890 to the "broad and uncultivated 
field of Qiristian enterprise within the bounds of the 
Church," which called for enlargement of the scope of 
woman's work. "The Woman's Parsonage and Home Mis- 



HER LIFE WORK 7$ 

sion Society," as a Department of the Board of Church 
Extension, resulted, and" the women and children were to 
be united in "procuring homes for itinerant preachers and 
otherwise aiding the cause of Christ." The activities of the 
Society were directed by twelve women, known as the Cen- 
tral Committee, in cooperation with the Church Extension 
Board. Miss Sue Bennett was chosen as one of these twelve 
women, and with characteristic Tevis-Bennett faith in the 
power of Christian education she promptly interpreted the 
phrase "otherwise aiding the cause of Christ," as meaning 
the women were authorized to build schools in destitute 
mountain sections. Immediately she pleaded for the estab- 
lishment of a school in the Southeastern Kentucky moun- 
tains and began gathering funds for this cause. 

It will be noted that the call of the Church to Miss Sue 
Bennett to take up the burden of parsonage building ante- 
dated the call of her younger sister to connectional Church 
service by three years, but the "burden of vision" of the 
need of schools for backward peoples of the older sister and 
that of the need of specialized training for missionaries and 
Christian workers of the younger, were simultaneous. Both 
of these Bennett women were devoted to their God-given 
tasks and toiled with sympathetic appreciation and under- 
standing each of the other's faith and obedience. 

But suddenly, in 1892, the silver cord of Miss Sue's life 
was broken, and her efforts for these people of the moun- 
tains were cut short by her untimely death. Miss Belle 
Bennett was out in the field raising the endowment of the 
Scarritt Bible and Training School when this great sorrow 
of separation from her sister came into her life. Miss Sue 
had been her inspiration and adviser through the years, and 
all human prop seemed broken. But in faith sublime, with 
a spirit like that of the Norweigan poet, she came to realize 
that 



76 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"Support may break in pieces, 

But you shall see 

The end will be 
Your need of crutches ceases. 

'Tis clear 
Whom God makes lonely 

To him he comes more near." 

With strength beyond her own she gathered the threads 
of Miss Sue's life purposes and determined to- carry to full 
fruition her ardent desire for educational opportunity for 
the mountain boys and girls in Southeastern Kentucky and 
at the same time complete her own task of raising the en- 
dowment for the Training School. She was elected to suc- 
ceed Miss Sue on the Central Committee at its annual meet- 
ing a few weeks after her death. The records contain this 
paragraph: 

"The subject of the evangelization of the mountains 
of Kentucky and West Virginia attracted much at- 
tention, and the committee determined, with God's help, 
during the year to endeavor to raise funds for a mis- 
sion in the mountains to be known as the 'Sue Bennett 
Memorial.' Miss Sue Bennett, as Secretary of the Ken- 
tucky Conference, was planning the mission when our 
Father called her home. Miss Belle Bennett subscribed 
to this memorial mission $500. Other large gifts are 
expected from those interested in that most needy 
field." 

The women of the Kentucky Conference, under the lead- 
ership of Mrs. Clara Poynter, rallied to the Sue Bennett 
Memorial and pledged seven thousand five hundred dol- 
lars as a special offering for it at the succeeding Confer- 
ence Society meeting. The minutes of the Central Commit- 
tee contained the announcement in 1893 that "the school 
in the mountains of Kentucky will become a fact," and 
Miss Belle Bennett was appointed Superintendent of Moun- 
tain Work. 

With the energy that distinguished her every assumption 



HER LIFE WORK jj 

of responsibility Miss Bennett set about getting expert in- 
formation concerning tlie most desirable location for this 
school. A site was offered at Manchester, but later with- 
drawn, for sufficient reason. She called to her assistance 
Rev. J. J. Dickey, who had established and maintained a 
school for ten years at Jackson, Ky., which later became an 
adjunct of Central University of the Presbyterian Church. 
He was present at the annual meeting of the Kentucky Con- 
ference Society at Richmond in 1894. Five thousand dol- 
lars had already been collected by the Kentucky women, and 
they were eager to begin work, but Mr. Dickey persuaded 
them to enlarge their plans and to strive to enlist the people 
of some mountain county seat in a larger enterprise than 
they had conceived. He induced Miss Bennett to visit 
London, easily accessible for a school to a number of coun- 
ties. Miss Bennett then determined to gO' through the 
mountain section herself that she might know personally 
the conditions and opportunities of peoples she would help. 
Mr, Dickey, who knew more of that country than any 
other person, went with her to help make these investiga- 
tions. His account of this visit reads: 

"We made the trip through the mountains, touching 
nine county seats. Dr. Lambuth, Mrs. Morgan, of 
Richmond, as traveling companion for Miss Bennett, 
myself, and the driver of the jolt wagon constituted 
the party. We held meetings in each county seat except 
Bell and Knox. Miss Bennet financed the trip. Her 
object was to show the mountains to Dr. Lambuth and 
thereby enlist his interest and cooperation. He was 
Missionary Secretary at that time." 

It was on this journey that Miss Bennett overheard the 
conversation between her companion and the mountain 
woman which ever afterwards furnished an axiom for 
home-mission women. They were spending the night in a 
mountain cove cabin where there was a large family of 



78 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

children. There were no openings in the house save the 
door, which appalled the town lady. 

"Why don't you have windows in your house?" she in- 
quired. 

"Because we'uns don' want no varments putt'n the'r 
heads in the holes." 

"But can't you put glass in the holes?" 

"How'd we'uns get it up here?" 

"Couldn't you bring it up on horseback ?" 

"Look a' here, stranger," came the rejoinder, "them what 
hain't never had nothin' don' miss it when they hain't got 
nothin'." 

This mountain philosophy satisfied the cove cabin dwell- 
er and explained why the peoples of the hills were more 
than a century behind the rest of the world. 

As a result of Miss Bennett's trip the citizens of London, 
Laurel County, Ky., offered to put $20,000 into a site and 
building for the school provided the Woman's Parsonage 
and Home Mission Society would raise an endowment of 
$20,000 for its maintenance. This proposition was accept- 
ed by the Central Committee, and it was agreed to "appro- 
priate $1,300 yearly, being six and one-half per cent of the 
endowment, until the full endowment could be raised." It 
then became Miss Bennett's work to help raise these funds. 
From her "Line a Day" of March 2y, 1895, is taken this 
statement, which shows her at work for this child of her 
sister's heart: "Made my first address on mountain work 
at Hopkinsville, Ky. Talked forty minutes tolerably well. 
Took no collection, which was a mistake." 

Miss Bennett wrot& very little for the press, but her 
great concern for the establishment of this school drove 
her to her desk and pen, where she poured out her heart in 
an earnest appeal to the Church to recognize its obligation 
to mountain people. This appeal, published in the Christian 
Advocate (Nashville), April 4, 1895, was the longest com- 



HER LIFE WORK 79 

munication she ever sent to any paper. It was fruitful in 
the general interest created in this work, and also touched 
many who responded with ,|gifts of money. 

At Miss Bennett's instance Rev. J. J. Dickey threw him- 
self into this new enterprise. Of him she wrote: "The life 
and influence of this one godly man has made itself felt as 
a revolutionizing force throughout the entire surrounding 
coimtry." For a year he made monthly visits from his 
home two hundred miles away to help the people of London 
raise their subscription. A campus of twenty-two acres on 
a most commanding site was purchased. Of his own voli- 
tion Mr. Dickey sold out his business in Jackson and moved 
to London, where he remained during the erection of the 
beautiful building. On June 25, 1896, the corner stone was 
laid by Bishop E. R. Hendrix in the presence of a large as- 
semblage of deeply interested people. The new building 
was not ready for occupancy when the school opened, ac- 
cording to advertisement, on January 2, 1897. An old 
building in London, known as the Laurel County Semi- 
nary, was rented, and the work began with a faculty of 
three and an enrollment of seventy-five. Within five 
months two hundred and ten students from four adjoin- 
ing counties responded to roll call. The beautiful new brick 
building, costing twelve thousand dollars, was dedicated and 
ready for service the next fall. It provided classroom 
facility for three hundred students. Because of the poverty 
of this mountain area cheap boarding arrangements were 
imperative. A system of cottages was adopted which af- 
forded accommodations for eight, ten, or twelve persons, 
who brought their furnishings and provisions from their 
homes, and thus lived on the campus at the minimum cost. 
Often a mother or older sister took a cottage, paying a dol- 
lar per month for rent, and by being housekeeper or house- 
mother cared for as large a group as the Principal would 
permit. This cottage plan for boarding students met with 



8o BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

hearty approval wheresoever Miss Bennett presented it, 
and promptly eight such buildings, built by different Con- 
ferences or individual families, dotted the campus. A dor- 
mitory for girls, named in honor of Miss Lucinda Helm, 
was soon erected. Miss Belle Bennett's power of persua- 
sion brought to the assistance of the school not only the 
women of the Parsonage and Home Mission Society, whose 
property the school became, but secured gifts from persons 
in no wise related to the institution or the organization back 
of it. Her reports to the Central Committee those first 
years tell of gifts of lumber for building from one not a 
Methodist ; of chairs sufficient to seat the school purchased 
at less than cost through the influence of a State official; 
of classrooms furnished and equippel by personal donations. 
Small legacies, the beginning of a worth-while library, and 
other contributions for the welfare of the institution are 
noted in the annals of the years. Especially did she stress 
the loyalty of the Kentucky women, in these reports, for she 
felt the upkeep and ongoing of the school was their re- 
sponsibility. How deeply seated in the affections of the 
people the school became was revealed by accounts of per- 
sonal ministry like that of Rev. J. J. Dickey and Dr. George 
Young, who came fifty miles each week to give Bible les- 
sons to earnest students. 

Miss Bennett was insistent that no system of helpfulness 
should be extended that would lessen the splendid spirit of 
independence which characterized mountain peoples; there- 
fore all pupils were required to pay some tuition, and when 
one was provided with a scholarship he made a note for 
repayment of the value the loan represented. Courses of 
study were planned which were especially adapted to the 
needs of the student body. 

Miss Bennett's great interest centered about the prepara- 
tion of teachers for the small schools back in the coves, and 
from the beginning a department, known as the "Normal 



HER LIFE WORK 8i 

Course," for training them was stressed. She likewise em- 
phasized the evangelistic influence of the school, for it was 
Christian education for which she strove. To this end she 
was most particular in selecting the Principal and faculty. 
Prof. J. C. Lewis, graduate of Bristol University, England, 
"a Christian scholar and educator in the best sense of the 
term," was chosen Principal. For nineteen years he and 
his godly wife were truly "workfellows" with Miss Ben- 
nett in the beautiful ministry of Sue Bennett Memorial 
School. 

Educators have claimed it requires five years to establish 
a school and prove its value to a community, A glance 
through the records of the five years, from the eventful 
opening of Sue Bennett Memorial School in 1897 to 1902, 
reveals the little plant sending down deep roots whence 
sprang buildings, equipment, and character development be- 
yond the most sanguine expectation of its promoters. 

The Twentieth Century Educational Campaign of the 
Church brought money for building the Ellen Burdette 
Home, the residence of the Principal, and later a Memorial 
Hall, a boy's dormitory built by friends in loving memory 
of personal relations through Miss Bennett's appeals, tell 
the story of the influence of her devotion. 

The establishment of this dream-child of her older sister 
Miss Bennett accepted as a sacred heritage, and to its prog- 
ress, from breaking soil for the first building to the full 
development of an institution far greater than she con- 
ceived, she contributed unremitting toil and continuous 
thought. From the selection of the first Principal and 
faculty to those of later years, and to every student who 
bore the impress of Sue Bennett Memorial School, she gave 
a wealth of love. The work was difficult by nature, and at 
first the Society was too poor to maintain the plant at the 
cost the opportunity demanded. In her fragmentary jour- 
nals there are sentences that picture her constant care. 
6 



82 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

January 12, 1898, she wrote, "A sleepless night over Lon- 
don debt," and again, "J^^^^^y 13, 1898 I wrote St. 
Louis, Mount Carmel, Maysville for money for the London 
school." A later entry says: "J^^^^^y 3, 1899, Professor 
Lewis came after supper, and we sat until 11 p.m., going 
over unpaid bills — $1,590 debts"; and on February 27, 
1899, she wrote, "I made a note to Mary for $1,588 for 
debt on London School." Continuously until 1901 she was 
burdened with these financial problems, often making up 
deficits herself. And there were vexing problems like tor- 
nadoes that twice unroofed buildings, and there were diffi- 
culties in convincing the boys of the mountains that manual 
labor is not degrading. Continuous anxieties concerning the 
administration of the school came to her so long as she re- 
mained Superintendent of Mountain Work. 

Thirty years passed between the going home of the two 
Bennett sisters, and they were years that witnessed great 
development in this school for mountain youth. Thou- 
sands of students went from her halls out into the great, 
wide world to bless and instruct thousands more. The prop- 
erty increased in value, and was reckoned at $240,000, while 
the growth of the Society permitted an annual appropriation 
for maintenance which approached the equivalent of an en- 
dowment of $300,000. Curriculums covering Model, High, 
Normal, Music and Business Schools were furnished, each 
school carrying economic and domestic sciences most need- 
ed in remote districts. In the first decade of 1900 the State 
of Kentucky enacted a law requiring the establishment of 
high schools in every county. In 19 10 Laurel County cor- 
related Its high school with Sue Bennett Memorial School, 
using the campus and faculty, furnishing an additional 
teacher and placing the whole under the supervision and 
direction of the principal. Prof. J. C. Lewis. The State 
now issues certificates to students of the school who com- 
plete all its required courses. On the thirtieth anniversary 



'f^b'f I 7 




MISS SUE A. BENNETT 



oh 



u 



HER LIFE WORK 83 

of the opening of the school four hundred and seventy-five 
students were enrolled. 

The burdens Miss Bennett bore were forgotten as she 
counted the men and women who had gone from Sue Ben- 
nett Memorial School to universities and places of larger 
preparation and thence to high and honorable position; or 
those who had become soldiers of the Cross in foreign 
fields; teachers in many Southern States; money-making 
business men; earnest-hearted homemakers, wives, and 
mothers; and the host who took their lighted torches back 
to the shut-away homes of the mountains. With all her 
heart she believed the office of the school is not to impart 
knowledge or increase the earning capacity of the individ- 
ual, but to develop, enrich, and mature his personality that 
he may become a useful member of society. For this reason 
she loved to tell that the first graduate, who served this 
government in distant fields, wrote her he had "not for- 
gotten the God he found at Sue Bennett and was at work 
for him as Superintendent of the First Sunday school over 
there." Always rejoicing in the prowess of woman, she 
found more than satisfaction in the memory of one daughter 
of the school who met a committee from the Kentucky 
Woman's Clubs with four horses at the railroad station and 
personally conducted the women on a tour of inspection of 
mountain-cove schools. The school she herself was teach- 
ing was so far beyond the others in character and work that 
the prize they came to award went unchallenged to her. 
Miss Bennett liked to tell of the circuit court judge whO' 
secured pardon for a father imprisoned for running a 
^'moonshine still," because of the impression made by the 
deportment and original speech of his son, who was vale- 
dictorian at a graduating exercise at Sue Bennett which he 
chanced to attend. A son of that development could make 
a man of his father, the judge contended. These are but 



84 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

samples of many facts that prove how well the school ful- 
filled its mission. 

If this heritage from her sister was one of toil and bur- 
den, it was no less one of high privilege to Belle Harris 
Bennett, for it brought to her the priceless joy of giving 
truth and light to a backward people "that they may have 
life and may have it abundantly." 



CHAPTER V 

CALLED TO HOME MISSION FIELDS 

Miss Bennett was elected President of the Woman's 
Parsonage and Home Mission Society April 28, 1896, ten 
years after its organization. Its progress had been very 
slow because of a strange apathy in the Church to organized 
home missions and the opposition of some members of the 
Woman's Foreign Missionary Society. The prejudice to 
this organization is clearly stated by Mrs. J. D. Hammond, 
who was among the first women of the Church to rally to 
its support: 

"When the home mission work of the Church 
struggled toward organization, the majority of our 
preachers, at least one of the bishops, and most of our 
women considered it disloyal to the foreign field to take 
part in the work. Our best women felt that the cause of 
foreign missions was in danger, and they honestly and 
earnestly labored with the home mission group to cease 
their activities. 

"Miss Bennett was already the best known woman in 
the Church. Her ability, her devotion, her high social 
position, marked her a leader. Every one regarded her 
as the coming woman of the foreign work. Yet she was 
one of the first to lead in the home mission work also. 
I will never forget our first meeting. We talked of 
the two aspects of the one work; and she told me many 
women in the foreign and many in the home field felt 
that she should give up her foreign work now as a 
matter of loyalty. 'And that is one thing I never will 
do,' she said. 'I intend to stay in both; and some day 
our women will see that none of us can afford to do 
anything else.' " 

The operations of the organization were directed by 
twelve women known as the Central Committee, which met 
annually in connection with the Board of Church Extension 

(85) 



86 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

in Louisville, Ky. The sessions were held in the beautiful 
home of Mr. and Mrs. George Kendrick, where a splendid 
hospitality was always extended. The spirit of patience and 
faith and fellowship of this group amidst the discourage- 
ments that beset those pioneer days was heroic. Of these 
meetings Mrs. Emily Allen Siler wrote: "The spirit of our 
early corps was bom of unceasing prayer. I remember when 
Miss Bennett first came to us, after Miss Sue's sudden 
going, that in the parlor of Mrs. Kendrick's home we spent 
hours on our knees asking God for help in the midst of 
these strange oppositions. As we drew close to God, he 
drew us close to one another." 

From these conferences the women filed into the rooms 
of the Church Extension Board to report their work. It 
is difficult to imagine a more distasteful proceeding for 
Miss Bennett's proud, democratic spirit. The patronizing 
spirit manifest in the terms "the good women," "the elect 
ladies," frequently used by the men in commendation of 
their work, were highly offensive to her. She also resented 
the insinuation, by this relation to the Church Extension 
Board, that the women were unequal to the responsibility 
of conducting their own work. Again the small body of the 
Central Committee was contrary to her ideas of democracy, 
for above everything she despised concentration of power 
in the hands of a few men and women. A woman of her 
vision, whose nature was so independent, could not have 
subjected herself to this irritation of spirit had she not 
realized a plea to the next General Conference, twO' years 
off, could make the women free to follow larger policies in 
a more democratic way. The Central Committee was too 
small to command the attention of the Church, and to offset 
this handicap conventions were called every year in different 
cities, to which representatives from the various Confer- 
ences were invited to consider some phase of needed work 
in the homeland. They were purely educative and inspira.- 



HER LIFE WORK 87 

tional and had no power to initiate work or to formulate 
plans. 

The General Conference of 1898 acceded to the wish of 
the women and authorized the Woman's Home Mission 
Society to be governed by the Woman's Board, composed of 
officers and corresponding secretaries from each Conference 
Society. Corresponding Secretaries from twenty Confer- 
ences met In Dallas, Tex., April 20, 1899, to formally or- 
ganize the new society. Miss Bennett's journal for this 
date gives the story of the meeting: "We spent the forenoon 
dissolving the old Central Committee. Permanent officers 
were elected for four years. With kind words and waving 
handkerchiefs I was made President, Miss Emily Allen 
Recording Secretary, Mrs. R. K. Hargrove General Secre- 
tary, and all the other old officers were elected. Dear 
Mary Helm is such a strong tower! Large audiences." 

Miss Bennett was finishing her work as Agent for the 
Scarritt Bible and Training School and also building the Sue 
Bennett Memorial School during the first years of her presi- 
dency of the Society. Her official relation began with a visit 
to the Pacific Coast in company with Bishop and Mrs. R. K. 
Hargrove. Mrs. Hargrove was General Secretary of the 
organization at that time. They became interested in 
Oriental immigration while on the coast, and urged the 
women of the local Churches to make first evangelistic ap- 
proaches by teaching these newcomers the English lan- 
guage. A number of night schools conducted by volunteers 
were started in California which later were enlarged and be- 
came connectional institutions of the Woman's Board of 
Home Missions. In after years they came tO' fruitage in 
splendidly organized Korean and Japanese Southern Meth- 
odist Churches. 

Headquarters of the Board were moved to Nashville, 
Tenn., and the executive offices located in the home of 
Bishop and Mrs. Hargrove. Miss Bennett was entertained 



88 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

in this delightful home when visiting Nashville in the In- 
terest of the work so long as Mrs. Hargrove held office. 
She resigned because of failing health in 1900 and was suc- 
ceeded by Mrs. R. W. MacDonell, of Macon, Ga. 

From the day when Miss Bennett became President of 
this organized woman's work until her death in 1922, her 
"Line a Day" journals tell of continuous reading of bi- 
ographies of great statesmen and makers of the world's 
history; of religious leaders like St. Francis of Assisi and 
Fletcher; and the ever growing number of books of sociol- 
ogy. She also read the outstanding fiction of the day that 
she might keep abreast of the trend of thought of the social 
world of her own times. These records tell of journeys 
oft, and numerous addresses, frequently as many as three 
or four a day, to all kinds of meetings and clubs. One 
gains an idea of the time thus given to encouraging the 
women of the Church and inspiring them with faith in the 
work from this paragraph in her annual address to the 
Board in 1906: 

"During the last calendar year your chairman was 
seven months in the field ; and had her physical strength 
been equal to it she might have filled twice seven, an- 
swering legitimate calls and doing that which ought to 
be done for the best good of the cause. You need a 
larger Executive Committee and more women in that 
Committee who can give their undivided time to field 
and office work." 

There was no constructive program in the Church at 
the beginning of the twentieth century which seemed ade- 
quate to arrest its attention and focus it upon the social 
wrongs of the day. Miss Bennett conceived a great edu- 
cational scheme by which its womanhood might be aroused 
to Christ's principles of social justice and through their 
influence work like leaven in the Church. To her this was 
but obedience to God's law of love and the underlying 
principle of home missions; it established man's relation 



HER LIFE WORK 89 

to man as brothers and sons of a common loving Father. 
On her missionary journeys, whenever it was possible, it 
became her habit to stop for rest in the home of the General 
Secretary in Nashville, Tenn. On these occasions she. Miss 
Mary Helm, and Mrs. MacDonell gave days to intensive 
study of reports of labor and commerce and immigration. 
They studied histories of similar condition in other coun- 
tries and sought to learn what other religious and welfare 
organizations were doing for conservation of human per- 
sonality in character and spiritual values. They diligently 

"Watched to ease the burden of the world, 
Laborously tracing what must be. 
And what may yet better be." 

These days of study were called the "Meetings of the 
Triumvirate" by the MacDonell household. Facts gathered 
then were tabulated and sent out to the Woman's Societies 
through the columns of Our Homes, the organ of the 
Board, leaflets, charts, and newspaper paragraphs. Insti- 
tutes were held where local cooperation made them possible 
and effective. Great speakers who had living messages were 
engaged for these institutes as a part of Miss Bennett's plan 
for the social education of the Church. Years before the 
Church was aroused to social activity the expressions "so- 
ciological investigation" and "social service" were familiar 
terms in the vocabulary of home mission women. Plans 
for schools for mountaineers, dependents, delinquents, 
Negroes, and foreign-born folk; city settlement work for 
native, foreign, and Negro industrial communities, and co- 
operative homes for young wage earners evolved from these 
investigations. Like a great general she trusted her fellow- 
workers to develop her plans and unfailingly gave credit of 
accomplishment to the splendid women with whom she 
labored. For her to have spent herself in routine work or 
to have handicapped her grasp of world issues with the 



90 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

grind of details would have been a tragic loss to the Church 
and to the world. 

The motive of Miss Bennett's missionary zeal was the 
building of God's victorious kingdom on earth. She sought 
to show the way of regeneration through Christ to the in- 
dividual and fought to conquer the evil that clogs the sal- 
vation of society. "Eternal life for the individual, the 
kingdom of God for humanity," was the slogan of her life. 
For this reason she led the women of the Church in much 
endeavor for human betterment, not then classed as re- 
ligious work. This attitude to the close relation of the 
human body and soul was demonstrated when she visited 
the beautiful Congressional Library in Washington in 1896 
while it was under construction. A group of missionary 
women accompanied her, and one of zealot spirit exclaimed: 
"Think of how many souls could be saved in heathen lands 
by the money invested in this building!" "Think of how 
many mouths have been fed with money earned in honest 
toil here!" was Miss Bennett's quick retort. To have men- 
tioned the ethical value to the nation of the great beauty 
of this building would have been lost upon that individual. 

Miss Bennett was reasonably proud of the prowess of 
the women of the Church whose moneys and boxes of goods 
sent through the Supply Department helped build and hold 
pastorates, which came into being almost overnight, like 
that at Lawton, Okla., when the territories of the West 
passed into Statehood. More than three thousand parson- 
ages throughout the bounds of the Church, and many 
preachers provided with boxes of supplies while rendering 
pioneer service or testing their adaptability to the Meth- 
odist itinerant system, attest the value of this branch of the 
woman's work. With the loyalty of a great nature she 
unfailingly gave credit to those who preceded her in office 
by stating: "More parsonages were built in the first five 



HER LIFE WORK 91 

years of this Society than in the first fifty years of American 
Methodism." 

Miss Bennett was twenty years ahead of her times when 
she foresaw the inevitable massing of unskilled laborers, 
alien peoples, and fortune seekers in the cities of the country 
as they followed in the wake of modem invention and in- 
dustrial and commercial changes. Like a prophet of old 
she cried aloud to the Churches in the South: "Make ready 
against the forces of evil that must crowd these marts of 
human life." She foresaw that nothing short of aggressive 
religious enthusiasm could cope with issues generated by 
these factors, and she believed that a Church alive to the 
ethics of Jesus had the power of regenerating municipal and 
commercial control of human relationships. Only one-third 
of the population of the United States lived in the cities 
when she first called attention to these facts, and twenty 
years later the census of 1920 revealed more than half as 
urban dwellers. The increase of the city population in ten 
years (19 10-1920) outstripped the total growth of the na- 
tion during the same period. 

In 1893, when Miss Bennett first became a member of 
the Central Committee, the Parsonage and Home Mission 
Society held a conference on "City Evangelism" in St. 
Louis, and later plans were devised for uniting the women 
of local Methodist Churches in some form of city work. 
A half dozen cities organized City Mission Boards and em- 
ployed local, earnest-hearted but untrained women. The 
results of these ventures were unsatisfactory, since occa- 
sional friendly visitors could not materially affect the family 
or community life. 

Miss Bennett's vision was that of large central institu- 
tions with men and women conducting various educational, 
friendly, and evangelistic forms of service as the effective 
means of reaching the unchurched and lonely masses. But 
the Church was not ready, and the part which women alone 



92 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

might play seemed more easily wrought through neighborly 
friendship in settlement homes, where trained workers, il- 
luminated with God's love, might live and share the ex- 
periences of the neighborhood. By no means did Miss Ben- 
nett or the women of the Board of Home Missions deem 
this measure sufficient for the demand, but it was a be- 
ginning; it was establishing a point of contact for the 
Church with foreign-born people, or indifferent native 
Americans, or that hardest of all people to touch with social 
justice, "our brother in black." 

In Miss Bennett's Itineraries through the Church her ap- 
peals for the establishment of these social centers were con- 
stant. Her journal of 1898 states concerning a visit to 
Nashville: "Went to the meeting of the City Mission Board ; 
met with the Committee first and gave them a talk on Set- 
tlement work ; then met the full Board." 

This conception of the Church maintaining settlement 
houses was new; indeed, at that time there was but one 
social settlement in the South. It was a bold suggestion, 
for there were not then three available women in the Church 
trained for such work. It was not until the fall of 1901, 
while Miss Bennett and Miss Helm were abroad, that this 
dream of social evangelism began tO' come true. The Nash- 
ville City Mission Board was wedded to the old thought of 
salvaging human wreckage in "doors of hope," and was 
loath to believe itself equal to a larger, more constructive 
program for conservation of youth or for building upon the 
latent possibilities of industrial community life. A sudden 
property question in which the aid of the General Secretary 
was invoked precipitated a situation which arrested its res- 
cue program, and the City Board was induced to establish a 
settlement house in South Nashville, which was in full oper- 
ation when Miss Bennett and Miss Helm returned. Miss 
Minerva Clyce (later Mrs. J. E. McCulloch) was appoint- 
ed head resident, which was evidence of God's approval of 



HER LIFE WORK 93 

this social religious venture, for her cheerful spirit, deep 
consecration, and large gifts of initiative fitted her for the 
endless experiments such a new enterprise entailed. The 
loyalty of the Nashville City Mission Board enabled the 
Woman's Board of Home Missions to use that settlement 
as an example for other cities. 

A definite City Mission program in Kansas City, Mo., 
was most important, as it was there the missionaries and 
deaconesses had their social training while attending Scar- 
ritt Bible and Training School. When the City Mission 
Board was organized, Miss Bennett proceeded to raise the 
three hundred dollars sufficient to initiate the day nursery, 
the first feature of work. By continuous appeals amounts 
totaling two hundred dollars were pledged, when a rich 
woman in the congregation arose, saying: *'Miss Bennett, 
if you will stop, I will give the other hundred." From this 
small beginning Miss Bennett realized a larger dream of 
city evangelization, for the small day nursery eventuated in 
the beautiful, very modern Institutional Church on Ad- 
miral and Holmes Boulevards, and the City Mission 
Board's collections increased until it was far easier to raise 
the more than fourteen thousand dollars for the maintenance 
of the Woman's Department of the Church than it was to 
get that first three hundred. The young pastor of the Mis- 
sion Church where the fruits of the woman's labors were 
garnered in its first years was the agent for raising the 
moneys to establish this Institutional Church. He claimed 
that he caught Miss Bennett's vision of a great plant of 
social evangelism while traveling abroad in 1901, when he 
met and studied with her and Miss Helm the great missions 
of London. 

The wisdom of this program for the conservation of 
youth and evangelizing the city slums appealed to the 
womanhood of the Church, and with an enthusiasm almost 



94 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

beyond compare they adopted it, as is shown in Miss Ben- 
nett's annual address to the Board in 1903: 

"The advance in organized mission work during the 
past year has been phenomenal. Women in cities, towns, 
and villages seem to have suddenly awakened to the 
fact that enough time had been spent in talking and writ- 
ing of the great need of evangelizing the cities, of the 
dangers from congested slums and the ignorant, degrad- 
ed immigrant and are reaching out for work as though 
just realizing that now is God's accepted time for the 
redemption of the masses. Twelve City Mission Boards 
are already affiliated with this Board, and in many other 
places the women are eager to organize." 

This settlement movement met with severe criticism from 
the preachers and some of the connectional officers. *Tt 
isn't evangelistic," said some. "You are treating symptoms, 
not disease," said others. "Churches, schools, and orphan- 
ages are real Church work, not these playhouses for the 
women," said one high official. A great part of the ob- 
jection sprang from the term "settlement house," which 
stood for the betterment work in college settlements. Miss 
Bennett realized that renaming the plants would change 
the attitude of mind and in her annual address in 1906, in 
this statesmanlike manner, recommended the change: 

"While studying methods of work in Chicago and 
New York we learned that the term Settlement Home 
or House was in decided disfavor among Church people 
in those sections. It was not difficult to find the cause. 
The Social Settlement preceded the Christian or Gospel 
Settlement, both in England and America, verifying 
the scriptural truth again that the 'children of this 
world are wiser in their day and generation than are 
the children of light.' 

"A splendid humanitarian work has been done by this 
social agency. Money has been given for the support 
of settlements without stint, and men and women of 
education and culture have given their time and 
life and worldly store to the work done in them. But 
they are as entirely separated from the Church and 



HER LIFE WORK 95 

Church influences as are the public schools or city hos- 
pitals. The residents make no pretense of being re- 
ligious teachers ; indeed, as a rule, they exclude all forms 
of worship or religious teaching. Yet to these social 
settlements the term 'settlement' rightfully belongs, and 
the Churches are recognizing this and are adopting other 
names. The Presbyterians do their settlement work in 
down-town Church House; the Episcopalians in the 
Parish House. We are in the infancy of our city mis- 
sion work. Let us take a distinctive name: Epworth 
Community House, Wesley Community House, or 
Methodist Community House. Let us have our own 
name and do not let us grow up a 'settlement' or a 



The name Wesley Community House was adopted for 
white neighborhoods and later Bethlehem House for Negro 
districts. Miss Bennett lived to see more than forty insti- 
tutions for social religious work, varying in size and name, 
as part of the woman's work in the home field and many 
others in the Orient and in Latin America. She also saw 
these incarnations of the Christian spirit duplicated by 
various industrial corporations in the South because they 
learned their human value from the Wesley Community 
Houses. 

Cooperative Homes for young, small wage earning wom- 
en became a part of the city mission program. Miss Ben- 
nett counted these one of God's agencies for preservation 
of character values for young girls who, as by-products 
of the twentieth century economic system, are thrust out 
into the world as bread winners. The danger that such in- 
stitutions might hinder the securing of just living wages 
was recognized, and deaconesses and missionaries charged 
with such work were constantly urged to exercise care con- 
cerning the places of business where the girls were em- 
ployed. The beautiful Mary Elizabeth Irm, in San Fran- 
cisco, gift of Mrs. L. H. Glide in memory of her mother, 
and the gift of the Houston Young Woman's Cooperative 



96 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Home by the business men of Houston, Tex., to the women 
of the Church, attest the world's estimate of the value of 
these works of love. A half dozen such homes, erected in 
as many Southern cities, proclaimed the socialized spirit of 
the women who worked with Miss Bennett in these home 
fields. 

Miss Bennett realized that this program of city missions 
could not go forward unless a large number of trained 
women volunteered for the work. HithertO' the Church had 
made no special call for young women to devote their lives 
to this field of human interest, and there were few who were 
ready for the service. Under her leadership the Woman's 
Board of Home Missions determined to send a memorial to 
the General Conference in 1902, calling attention to this 
manifest need and asking for the creation of the office of 
deaconess in the Church. It was felt that this class of work- 
ers would be more effective in their ministration if they 
should be set apart by the Church and work under the 
authority and appointment of a Deaconess Board. Miss 
Bennett and Miss Mary Helm threw the influence of their 
large personalities into the appeal, and Mrs. L. P. Smith's 
intimate acquaintance with the deaconess work of the Wes- 
leyan Church in England gave the Committee of the Gen- 
eral Conference such detailed information that the me- 
morial was granted. The development and conduct of the 
deaconess work was committed to the Woman's Board 
of Home Missions. The conservatives of the General Con- 
ference and Church at large were unfavorable to the move- 
ment, despite the fact that it was bringing back to the mod- 
ern Church the authorized service of woman that obtained 
in apostolic times and in the early centuries of Christianity. 
Miss Bennett's address at the succeeding meeting of the 
Board, in 1903, reveals the magnitude of the task and the 
spirit of the women when they undertook it: 



HER LIFE WORK 97 

"The introduction of the great and, as we believe, 
vitalizing force of the deaconess in the Church, and the 
action of the General Conference committing the direc- 
tion and superintendence of the same to this Board, 
entail a responsibility that should wring from every 
heart the prayer, 'Teach me thy way, O God, and lead 
me in a plain path,' for 'who is sufficient for these 
things?' 

"A quorum of the Board in called meeting has al- 
ready outlined a policy for this new element, but what 
was done at that meeting must be ratified at this; and 
if any changes are to be made, they must be made now. 
We are building for the future, and only that wisdom 
which Cometh down from above can save us from mis- 
takes in this important department. God grant that no 
personal prejudices, no importunate demands for help 
from pastors or congregations, and no fear of disaffec- 
tion or antagonisms from any quarter may induce this 
Board to abate one jot or tittle of the two years' course 
of Bible study and systematic training authorized by the 
General Conference and prescribed by this body. To 
fail to maintain a high standard in one single instance, 
at this jucture, would be to establish a precedent that 
would inevitably bring discredit upon the deaconess 
and hinder, rather than help, the cause of Christ by 
cloaking pretentious ignorance in the garb of the 
Church. We need trained women, and need them badly. 
We need exceptionally fine women, as the specific calls 
from numerous pastors, congregations, and institutions 
clearly show. We could doubtless place a hundred such 
deaconesses in the next thirty days if we had them. But 
exceptional, well-trained women are not found or made 
in a day. Let the Church wait until they are found and 
prepared, and let this Board make it difficult for an un- 
worthy applicant to become a deaconess, so difficult 
that even the most ardent advocates of the cause will 
understand that you do not intend to authorize the set- 
ting apart of any but the best. 'Quality, not quantity, 
is what we want.' We must have women filled with the 
Holy Ghost and with power — power to study and to 
think; power to wield the sword of the Spirit to the 
saving of life, as the skillful surgeon uses his knife; 
power to work under authority and to exercise author- 
ity, to project work and develop work. We must have 
women who have power with God and man ; we need no 
7 



98 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

other kind. Too much time, thought, and prayer cannot 
be given to the launching of this new department." 

The deaconesses developed under a missionary board 
very naturally felt the missionary appeal the greater call 
of the Church in the homeland and preferred appointments 
where human sympathy found largest play. But the larger 
field for her work is that of the Church deaconess. Miss 
Bennett's earnest desire for the larger development of this 
work is expressed in this paragraph of a letter to Deaconess 
Helen Gibson, December 31, 192 1: 

"We often let the idea dominate us that ignorant, il- 
literate, poor people need the glad tidings of great joy 
more than people in better circumstances. It isn't 
true, however, and I have really longed for some of our 
splendid deaconesses to be able to give life and time to 
the people who live in the homes of wealth and luxury. 
It is the living epistles known and read of all men that 
reach hearts that can be touched in no other way. 
Dr. James I. Vance has well said that our churches are 
filled with these, and to draw them into the way and 
will of God is as truly missionary work as working 
with the heathen in darkest Asia or Africa." 

Miss Bennett was never happy over the method of financ- 
ing the deaconess work, though the plans adopted were 
those followed by other denominations. She always felt 
the Church could never take the stand for higher living 
wage of the day laborer and other salaried peoples until she 
paid the preachers salaries that commanded their own self- 
respect. Concerning the change in the deaconess salaries 
she said in 1906: "A matter on which I sincerely hope this 
Board will take action is the stipend of the deaconess. 
Shall not the clauses limiting the financial allowance and 
promising life support after a certain term of service be 
stricken out of the statutes, and these self-sacrificing 
daughters of the Church be allowed to stand upon their 



HER LIFE WORK 99 

merits and work for the Church as do other missionaries, 
teachers, and preachers?" 

Jealousy for her Lord's work made Miss Bennett solic- 
itous that great care should be exercised in the selection 
and preparation of the women for home missions. This 
oft expressed desire was stated as follows in 1908: 

"We need no surer evidence of the growth and ad- 
vancement of an interest in home missions throughout 
the Church than a glance at the number of students that 
have entered the Training Schools this year. Twice, 
perhaps three times, as many young women will com- 
plete the required course next year as have been grad- 
uated from them before. Our prayers to the Lord of 
the harvest have been answered, our efforts have been 
crowned with success, and our hearts are full of thanks- 
giving as we see these young women surrendering their 
hearts to God and their lives to the work of the Church. 

"We must not forget, however, that we need to be 
much in prayer for guidance in the selection of work- 
ers. A zeal for numbers unchecked will burden the 
Church w*ith women for whom there will be no call and 
for whom the Board can find no special work. While 
every preacher in Methodism receives an appointment 
and the work to which he is appointed must accept him 
for at least one year, it is not so with the deaconess. 
She is called, and in the call a process of selection and 
elimination begins. Only the best are in demand. 
Women of broad education, of culture, refinement, and 
tact, all glorified by a spirit of self-abnegation, are 
sought by every agency desiring the work of a trained 
woman. Even such a one may sometimes fail, and in 
her failure close for years a door of opportunity and 
usefulness to some other woman. God has a work for 
every man and woman 'created in Christ Jesus'; but 
all women are not called to the office of deaconess, and 
this Board needs to see to it that only those who can 
fill that office shall be invested with its responsibility." 

Miss Bennett's sense of responsibility for the intellectual 
development of these younger sisters in God's work, and 
her anxiety for their physical and spiritual life, seemed 



loo BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

natural to her great mother heart. "Take time to give God 
a chance" was her constant admonition. To these she said: 
"Oh ! how we need the quiet times to let God speak to us, 
You, his leaders, need far more than any of those around 
you the quiet hour where God may speak with you. Each 
day is full for God's chosen ones, but prayer is the great- 
est part for each day's work. The day came when Moses, 
the great lawgiver, heard God say: 'My presence shall go 
with thee, and I will give thee rest.' " 

It was the audacity of Miss Bennett's faith that opened 
the doors of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for 
woman's service among foreign-born people in the South. 
In 1893, when the Woman's Board of Foreign Missions 
held its annual meeting in the new Scarritt Bible and 
Training School, appeals were made for opening work 
among Cubans, who were moving in large numbers to 
Florida. Miss Bennett and Mrs. Scarritt sat at the large 
window in the hall that overlooked the chapel while the 
subject was discussed. When the measure was lost she 
turned to Mrs. Scarritt, saying, "This is home mission 
work" ; and while there was no money in the treasury for 
other than parsonage work, she hastened to assure the 
framers of the appeal that the other woman's organization 
could take it up. A less daring faith would have hesitated 
to assume such unauthorized responsibility, but her winning 
power induced the Society to launch a work which flowered 
in three settlements and schools in Tampa and Key West, 
and hundreds of Cuban children and lonely women rose up 
and called them blessed. 

When the twentieth century immigration brought in- 
creasing numbers of strangers of foreign tongue to the 
South, the women were ready to greet them as friends in 
Wesley Community Houses and in schools. The Panama 
Canal assured a shorter route to the West, and Miss Ben- 
nett's statesmanlike eye caught the vision of the rapid trend 



HER LIFE WORK loi 

of immigration to tlie Gulf Coast. The government was 
seeking to relieve congestion at Northern ports by routing 
certain immigrant boats to Galveston; already the oyster 
and shrimp canneries were bringing foreign seasonal labor- 
ers to Mississippi. Miss Bennett rallied the women to this 
field in 1908 as follows: 

"As we look out on the field, asking guidance of our 
Great Leader for the next advance, 'the burden of the 
valley of vision' is on us. New Orleans and Galveston, 
the two great ports on our Southern coast toward which 
the immigrant tide is rapidly turning, appeal for help 
to this Board, and these appeals cannot be disregarded 
or even delayed. The old city of New Orleans, below 
Canal Street, with its one hundred and fifty thousand 
inhabitants speaking a dozen different languages, its 
crowded tenements, its narrow streets, and generally 
congested and insanitary conditions, is a wide-open 
field that American Protestantism has scarcely touched. 
This section of the city, with that lying at the foot of 
the great levee that holds the waters of the encircling 
Mississippi in their channel, needs not one but a dozen 
Christian institutions of the best and most aggressive 
type to assist in evangelizing and Christianizing this con- 
glomerate people. 

"Local assistance for such a work can and must be 
obtained, and a small beginning — a Wesley House, with 
two or three workers — will not command the attention 
and respect of the Christian laymen to whom we must 
look for this financial help. A good hall, well located, 
as a central evangelistic mission, with an immigrant 
bureau and whatever other institutional features can be 
added, with an aggressive, forceful man in charge, as- 
sisted by a sufficient corps of workers, is imperative if 
we would begin a work that shall grow until it meets 
the demands of the situation. God grant that this Board 
at this meeting may authorize the establishment of an 
evangelistic mission and an immigrant work in the city 
of New Orleans! 

"Galveston needs a work of a somewhat different 
character, but her need is not the less imperative. The 
Jewish people, with their usual wise foresight, have al- 
ready intrenched themselves in splendid quarters at this 



102 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

port and since last July have met, cared for, and care- 
fully distributed two thousand Jewish immigrants. The 
same steamers that brought these two thousand Hebrew 
people to our shores landed on the same wharf five 
thousand immigrants who, save in exceptional cases, 
had no one to meet them or to hold out a helping hand 
as tliey entered this Christian country. Can this Board 
afford to delay the establishment of immigrant work in 
Galveston?" 

St. Mark's Hall, on Rampart and Governor Nichols 
Streets, a splendid building, equipped for every phase of 
social and religious work, with a corps of consecrated, 
trained workers, tells the story of the accomplishment of 
her plan for New Orleans. She persuaded the General 
Board of Missions to workfellowship with the women in 
a great enterprise worthy this opportunity for service. Be- 
cause of her insistence at Galveston an Immigrant Home, 
jointly supported and governed by the men and women of 
the Church, cared for incoming and outgoing strangers for 
several years until the government erected adequate build- 
ings on Pelican Island. Schools, clinics, Wesley Houses, 
and other social centers grew up among Mexicans, Italians, 
French, Orientals, and the polyglot peoples in mines and 
packing houses, where deaconesses and missionaries 
wrought with the supreme sense of brotherhood. Churches 
stand among these peoples because these settlements fur- 
nishd points of contact through the incarnation of the 
Christ spirit in the women who toiled for him there. 

Miss Bennett earnestly labored that the spiritual life of 
the women of the Church would continuously grow, that 
they might be qualified for larger service as the years passed. 
Her satisfaction at the deepening of the inner life of the 
women is mentioned in her message to the Board in 1905: 

"The greatest good accomplished by the Woman's 
Home Mission Society during the past year, or during 
all the years since it became a part of the autonomy of 



HER LIFE WORK 103 

the Church, is not recorded in the annual reports nor 
measured by suffering alleviated, the schools established, 
and the lives made better and more bearable by their 
work, but by the ever-growing goodness of the women 
who have lived and loved and wrought for them with 
God. The marked increase in the membership and 
collections of the Society since the Board met one year 
ago is the visible and natural result of lives that are 
taking on more of the learning of God through service 
to man and learning more of the mind of Christ in the 
struggle to apprehend the meaning of his words: 'Love 
one another as I have loved you.' " 

Again in 1908 she traces their pov^er to certain charac- 
teristics of the Spirit-filled women: 

"An experience of eighteen years among the so-called 
'submerged classes' has compelled even the most skep- 
tical to believe that 'God is no respecter of persons ; that 
notwithstanding the accident of birth, and the blighting 
influences of the worst environment the gospel' is the 
power of God to every one that believeth, and that every 
soul born into the world has a right to the life more 
abundant which the gospel proclaims. The cumulative 
evidence of these years, seeing and knowing the re- 
sults, has begotten in the hearts of some of our work- 
ers a very passion for humanity, and they count not 
their lives dear unto themselves if they can but testify 
to the gospel of the grace of God in the uplift and bet- 
terment of those less fortunate than themselves. A 
broader study of God's Word, a deeper cultivation of 
the prayer life, and an increasing spirit of liberality are 
manifest throughout the membership of the organiza- 
tion." 

Miss Bennett's happy faculty of securing the cooperation 
of the women of the Church built about her a group of ad- 
miring friends whose devotion was a source of strength. 
But there are instances where the over expression of ap- 
preciation of some of them embarrassed her or precipitated 
humorous situations. No feminine expression of apprecia- 
tion of her ability, however, quite equaled that of a very 



104 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

urgent preacher who appeared before the Executive Com- 
mittee of the Board on one occasion and pleaded with her to 
make the women grant his petition for help in building a 
parsonage. "Madam," he cried, "only the Czar of Russia 
holds more power in his hands than is in yours." 

Miss Bennett's last eager call in 192 1 to the women of 
the Church to press forward with this work makes clear the 
great motive which had actuated her leadership in the home 
field all these years: 

"Our homeland, with a conglomerate population of 
more than one hundred and ten millions of people, rep- 
resentative of every race and nation on the globe, is 
unquestionably 'the greatest mission field in the world.' 
Sixty-five per cent of this population is non-Christian 
and wholly unreached by the Church. Christian civiliza- 
tion makes its impress upon it, but Jesus Christ as 
Saviour and Redeemer is unknown to this great mass of 
humanity. 

"In 1919 there were 13,920,000 foreign-born people 
in our country, a large body of whom knew neither our 
language nor our customs. Many of these were idol 
worshipers from pagan lands, and all need the gospel 
and the fostering care of the Church. These are the 
people who could and should be made the great mis- 
sionary force of the world. 

"If the Church of God in this crucial hour of history 
would but tarry until the Holy Spirit came with Pen- 
tecostal power upon it, this land would become the mis- 
sionary training school of the world. Multitudes would 
go back to all nations, speaking with tongues touched 
with a coal from off the altar, able to witness for Christ 
to their own kith and kin as no foreigner of another 
race and tongue could ever do. 

"Hear the word of the Lord : 'Ask of me, and I will 
give you the heathen for thine inheritance, and the ut- 
termost parts of the earth for thy possession.' The 
heathen are at our doors and in our homes. Who bids 
them welcome with the words, 'You are my brother, and 
a loving God is our Father'? Our eyes look out through 
the daily newspapers on 'the uttermost parts of the 
earth,' and our hearts and voices answer: 'We do not 
want this inheritance for our possession.' 



HER LIFE WORK 105 

"We want their commerce and their trade, and we 
give them in return the debauching evils of our own 
land. Who compelled China to produce opium for the 
world and thereby corrupt her own people? Christian 
England! Who taught her the hideous vice of sexual 
prostitution? Christian America and other Western 
nations. Who to-day is ruining the health and morals 
of the young manhood of all those Oriental nations 
with the poisonous American cigarette? Christian 
America! The Church must get back to the apostolic 
source of power, the baptism of the Holy Ghost, if she 
would meet her responsibilities in giving the gospel to 
the people of her own land. 

"The field is white unto the harvest. Lift up your 
eyes and look at the overripe bending grain all round 
about you. And hear the Master say again : 'The har- 
vest is white, and the laborers are few.' " 



CHAPTER VI 
A LOVER OF YOUTH 

"It was remarkable that a woman of Miss Bennett's years 
and more than full life could, have given three whole days 
to entertaining a young college girl as she did me the sum- 
mer before I graduated at Vanderbilt," said a young woman 
when she read the message telling of her death. 

"It is a strange providence that would remove one whose 
life was so full of good work for God and man," said an- 
other young person, whose mind utterly refused to grasp 
the fact when reminded that Miss Bennett had rounded the 
allotted span of life. "But she couldn't have done so; she 
was so youthful in spirit and vigorous in thought. No one 
could think of her as being old!" she contended. State- 
ments like these, showing the generous gift of herself to the 
youth of the land and revealing youth's eager response, 
were made all over the South when she went away. 

It was the fullness of her nature, the subtle relation and 
interaction of her splendid physique, intelligence, emotion 
and will, that charmed young people. Did Miss Bennett 
enter the room she soon filled it, but with such perfect un- 
consciousness of her charm that others forgot they were 
overlooked. If she spoke of her beloved work she generous- 
ly drew some other quiet, less engaging fellow worker into 
the foreground that she might have part in the conversation. 
Was she your guest, she was honored by the courtesy no 
matter how humble the home, and if it chanced to be at the 
meeting of a Woman's Missionary Society her friends from 
a distance must meet her hostess. Were you shy, not sure 
of yourself, amongst strangers, her understanding heart 
laid barriers low and made you your best social self. 
(io6) 



HER LIFE WORK 107 

While Miss Bennett was an ever-surprising and fascinat- 
ing personality to young people, it was tiieir potential power 
which caused her to covet every young man and woman for 
her Lord. There are hundreds of people in many States 
who carry pictures grouped on memory's wall of Miss Ben- 
nett's good fellowship which won young people to her stand- 
ard. One such picture she disclosed herself as she wrote 
in her journal of March 30, 1895, when she visited Dr. and 
Mrs. Poynter at Science Hill Academy, Shelbyville, Ky. : 
"Took the girls up town after dinner and treated them. 
They gave me a concert at night in Nan's room.'* 

Was there a girl in that party who could fail to respond 
to her social graces as they grouped about her knee in 
"Nan's room," after the music? Was there one whO' was 
not fascinated as she told them of some of the interesting 
things God was letting her do for his kingdom?" 

Mrs. C. Jackson, of Los Angeles, pictures another, old- 
er group won through her magnetic power : 

"Years ago, when we lived in Independence, Mo., 
Miss Bennett visited us. I asked if I might invite the 
girls of my Bible class to see her, just a quiet home visit. 
Most graciously she consented. I arranged the chairs 
in a circle so each one could look into her face, as I 
wished them to have the close personal touch impossible 
at a public auditorium. The girls were thrilled. If 
ever the Holy Spirit used her as his messenger he surely 
did that night. So deep and true were her words, so 
inspiring ! Resolutions to be, to do better and work more 
for the Master were made that night. Her words are 
still bearing fruit in the lives of a number she spoke 
to on that memorable occasion. What an inestimable 
blessing it was for this beloved woman to have so 
deeply inspired young life!" 

Mrs. Janie McTyeire Baskervill reveals her power to 
captivate in this account of Miss Bennett's visit to Sullins 
College: 



io8 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"One of the perils of maturity, and sometimes even 
of a life of devotion, is the danger of establishing a 
viewpoint which has a tendency to put us out of sym- 
pathy with the young life about us. Miss Bennett's re- 
ligion enabled her rather to enter into the experiences 
of youth and thereby awaken their noblest instincts and 
inspirations. 

"I shall never forget the impression she made on an 
audience of wide-awake schoolgirls some years ago. 
Rather reluctantly they filed into the auditorium to 
hear what they evidently thought would be a some- 
what tiresome lecture. With her inimitable sense of 
humor and perfect understanding of the psychology of 
the situation, before appearing on the rostrum she in- 
sisted on removing her hat and at the same time laugh- 
ingly observed that she had seen the attention of so 
many audiences diverted from the subject by the amus- 
ing tilt of a crooked hat and dared not risk such a pre- 
dicament in the presence of young people. There never 
lived a girl who didn't want to be beautiful or one to 
whom a 'good looker' did not appeal as the real thing. 
Hardly had Miss Bennett stepped upon the platform 
when it was evident that her magnetic personality, the 
brightness of the smile that fairly radiated from her 
countenance, the earnestness of her message, and even 
the tastefulness of her dress had all combined to pre- 
pare the soil. 

"As she proceeded without affectation, without man- 
nerism to tell something of her early experiences in 
Homelands, the grand old ante-bellum mansion of her 
girlhood days all present felt the charm of her sym- 
pathetic nature. 

"Surrounded by every luxury that wealth could sup- 
ply, her home the center of princely hospitality, her 
friends predicted for her a brilliant social career. The 
prospect might have overwhelmed and dominated her 
had she not had the moral courage to lay down her 
life, if necessary, for her Church and the great world 
beyond because she saw an opportunity to perform a 
great service. 

"The heroic never fails to attract young people. Here 
was a woman so sane, so human, and so uncompromis- 
ing in her choice of the right that, with Paul, she too 
had said : 'The things that were dear to me I accounted 
as dross that I might know him and the power of his 



HER LIFE WORK 109 

resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings.' The 
effect of this talk was instantaneous and lasting, and 
some of those girls date their spiritual awakening from 
that hour." 

One of Miss Bennett's characteristics that endeared her 
to young people was her great sense of humor, which recog- 
nized and enjoyed a joke and passed it on to provoke fun 
and laughter. Sometimes, in her journeys where she 
touched all classes and conditions, she was the victim of 
ludicrous situations, which she treasured to tell to the young 
folk. In her youth she was a devoted reader of Bacon, and 
while not consciously moved by religious motive at that time 
she learned from him to believe in the "sacredness of secular 
pursuits, trade and commerce, as agencies for bringing in 
the kingdom of God." When she came into her heritage 
of faith this principle was applied to all honest toil and 
enabled her to relate religion to life, which gave her wide 
influence in molding the character of young people. It also 
balanced her individual missionary appeal. Her supreme 
desire was to enlist young people in missionary work, 
whether as volunteers or as fellow workers at the home 
base, not alone for the work's sake, but that they might 
have larger life. She spared no pains, counted no sacri- 
fices too great, if thereby she might draw them into this 
workfellowship. Those who were guests with her in an 
Atlanta (Ga.) home when the Woman's Board of Home 
Missions met there in 1903, carry amusing memories of her 
efforts to win the daughters of their hostess. Four of the 
official members of the Board arrived before Miss Bennett 
did. When she entered the house and removed her hat 
Miss Mary Helm cried: "Why, Belle, what have you done 
to your head ? What is the matter with your hair?" 

"Nothing, Mary. Why do you ask?" she replied. 

"Nothing? You know there is something the matter 
with it, Belle." 



no BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"Why, Miss Bennett, we loved the Psyche knot and fluffy 
curls about your face," said Mrs. MacDonell, almost in 
tears. 

Mrs. J. D. Hammond entered the room later, and noting 
the changed coiffure said, "Why, Miss Bennett! Why, 
Miss Bennett, you've done your hair a la pompadour!" as 
though there might be some crime in that style of head- 
dress I 

"Well, I never!" exclaimed Mrs. J. H. Yarbrough when 
she noted the change. "Look here. Miss Bennett, you are 
mighty mistaken if you think I'm going to sit facing you 
five days while you preside over this meeting with that stiff 
roll of hair about your head like a small halo !" 

To this onslaught Miss Bennett replied: "There are two 
young girls in this home whom I want to win to the work 
of the Church. Most young girls think missionary women 
are old fogy and associate missions with tedious and un- 
interesting things. Now I am going to remove these ob- 
jections from the minds of these girls in this home if good 
modern dress will help me. I don't wonder the young 
things think us out of date when we let ourselves so far 
forget our personal appearance as to be ten years behind 
the times in manner of dressing our hair." 

This sympathy with youth gave Miss Bennett an under- 
standing and appreciation which won hearts and confi- 
dences. She was impatient with condemnation of innocent 
amusement and natural joy of young people and protested 
against separation of normal life and religion. Her spirit 
of toleration, freedom from dogma, and fearless willing- 
ness to accept new methods of presenting unchanging 
truth, and her own deep personal experience gave her the 
message of authority for young people who were seeking a 
place for life investment. The report of her devotional 
service at the meeting of the Woman's Board of Home Mis- 



BELLE H. BENNETT AT SIXTEEN 



HER LIFE WORK III 

sions in 1907 is so nearly an epitome of her conversations 
with youthful inquirers it is appropriate to quote it here: 

"Miss Bennett emphasized the constant and pas- 
sionate prayer life of Jesus. She spoke of the call of 
the world and of the Church for leadership and the steps 
by which it is attained. He called the twelve to be with 
him that they might become fitted for leadership. The 
steps in leadership must be selection, preparation, ap- 
pointment. A real leader, one with positive power, is 
one with the indewlling spirit of Christ. God's call to 
serve comes usually through some human agency, and 
entrance into service assures divine authority. Luke's 
account of the sending forth of the seventy, the laymen, 
into every city, and every place, gives also a note from 
the triumphant joy that came into the heart of our 
Lord as he caught a vision of a world redeemed through 
the testimony and service of his laborers." 

In keeping with this faith she did not hesitate to become 
the human agency for calling missionaries, deaconesses, 
preachers, and lay workers to the "fields white imto the 
harvest." That she was mightily used of the Spirit for 
this high calling many laborers attest. Miss Mary Culler 
White, whose remarkable work in China Is full proof of 
her divine call, tells how she was impressed when she first 
touched life with Miss Beimett: 

"When I was a young teacher in Hawklnsville, Ga., 
the Woman's Missionary Conference of South Georgia 
held its annual meeting in Mulberry Street Church, 
Macon. At that time I was beginning to be interested 
in the work of the Sunday school and the Ep worth 
League, but I cared nothing for the Missionary Society. 
My best friend, Mrs. Kate Watts, was elected a dele- 
gate from Hawklnsville to the annual meeting in 
Macon. I was much disappointed over this, for I had 
planned to take her with me on a visit to an old friend 
w^ho lived not far from Macon. Poor Mrs. Watts ! She 
was divided between a sense of duty as a delegate and 
a desire to go with me and make the visit. Finally, 



112 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

I went with her to Macon at the time of the meeting; 
but I begged her all the time to cut the conference and 
go with me. While I was having this enforced stay in 
Macon, I was entertained in the home of my aunt, Mrs. 
J. B. Cobb, who was one of the conference officers. 
Miss Belle Bennett was also staying with Mrs. Cobb, 
and in this way I had my first contact with her. In spite 
of my begging, Mrs. Watts stayed at the meeting 
through Sunday, and, since I had to wait for her, I at- 
tended the conference too. I do not remember any- 
thing except the Sunday night consecration service. 
The leaders of the conference and many of the dele- 
gates had entered into a very deep experience through 
the baptism of the Holy Spirit. At this service they 
arose and testified of what this experience meant in 
their lives. But all they said was so foreign to anything 
in my own life that I was much puzzled to know what 
they were talking about. I was seated about halfway 
back in the church ; and quite accidently, I suppose. Miss 
Bennett was sitting by my side. I remember that she 
made her own testimony, and then leaned toward me 
and touched my arm as if trying to encourage me to 
speak. I could not possibly have done so, for was I 
not at that very time trying to tear one of the delegates 
away and take her off on a pleasure trip ? As a matter 
of fact, I succeeded in getting her away the very next 
day. But, even though it had no immediate effect, I 
could never forget that the gracious and beautiful Miss 
Bennett, the great missionary leader, had shown a per- 
sonal interest in me and had believed that I could make 
a testimony. It was not many years before I learned 
what the women meant who spoke that night of the 
baptism of the Holy Spirit; and with that knowledge 
came the purpose to make the cause of missions the 
chief business of my life." 

Let her own words explain why she held this burning 
zeal for enlistment of young people of the Church in this 
cause divine: 

"We still have a great unoccupied field of women, 
girls, and young children who know but little of the 
awful need of the non-Christian world or the unreached 
millions in our own land. How can these, our very 



HER LIFE WORK 113 

own, know the joy and peace of feIlo\Arship with Christ 
unless their hearts and minds be opened to the privi- 
lege of helping him win the world?" 

As a means of arresting the attention of students and 
opening their minds to this high privilege, Miss Bennett 
urged upon the Council the appointment of a college woman 
wdth spiritual graces, whose sole duty should be visiting 
students at colleges for the presentation of this ripe field 
for life investment. In 19 12 she said: 

"We are not securing the candidates for the work 
already assumed either in the home or foreign field. 
The Council needs a college woman of deep spiritual 
life, with special gifts and graces, who can give all her 
time to visiting the best schools in the South, high 
schools, normal schools. Church and State colleges, and 
in the large bodies of young women who attend these 
institutions search out the best and put into them hun- 
ger for souls that they may become fellow workers with 
God in bringing the world to Christ." 

Miss Bennett hesitated not to call young matrons into 
the active work of the home base even though they were 
mothers and home makers. Above measure she honored 
the makers of Christian homes whose contribution to the 
world were their children reared in the "admonition and 
fear of the Lord." But she felt it due the children and the 
home that the larger vision of their world relationship 
should enrich their lives. A gracious young matron in At- 
lanta, whose gifts she coveted for world citizenship, is one 
of hundreds who tell of her appeal: 

"I regret that I find none of Miss Bennett's letters 
among my treasures; I recall several parts of letters 
written to me at various times. One sentence partic- 
ularly. She had written asking me to join her at a con- 
ference of social workers to be held in some Eastern 
city. Her influence had made the program makers as- 
sign me a place on the program. I found that I could 
not go and wrote her so. She answered in her own 
8 



114 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

sweet, gracious way, regretting that I could not be pres- 
ent and added : 'O, how I am longing for you in my Mas- 
ter's work !' It lingered for a long, long time and im- 
pressed me deeply." 

The consecration of deaconesses and missionaries at the 
annual meetings of the Board and later the Woman's Mis- 
sionary Council is always a very solemn and beautifully 
impressive service. Even a stony-hearted skeptic is moved 
by the high idealism shown by a group of young people 
turning from the ways of the world in a great adventure of 
divine love. As she presented the candidates to the Bishop 
for consecration, Miss Bennett's face was so radiant that 
those who witnessed saw 

"The God within her light her face. 
And seem to lift her form and glow; 
To azure orbits, heavenly wise." 

These occasions frequently brought to her room at the 
hotel, or some quiet nook of the Church, young persons who 
had heard that night the voice of the Lord say, "Whom 
shall I send?" and were ready to say: "Here am I; send 
me." It was always granted unto her to flood the "in- 
heritance of the light of Christ" into their waiting hearts. 
Her call to the women of the Church to pray the Lord to 
raise up missionaries and deaconesses for the work was 
iterated and reiterated until it echoed in 1918 in a call for a 
selective draft: 

"'With quickened faith and more insistent prayer we 
must cry to him who said : All authority hath been given 
me in heaven and on earth. Pray ye the Lord of th-e 
harvest to send forth laborers into his harvest.' It was 
he who by his own wondrous method of draft selected 
Paul and Deborah and many who gave their bodies to 
be burned. Is this Council not ready to form a Prayer 
League whose members in the night watches and in 
the early morning hours, and again in the evening when 
the sun goes down behind the horizon, will send up a 



HER LIFE WORK 115 

volume of united prayer to him to thrust forth the best 
and bravest into his white harvest fields?" 

The secret of God's method in the selective draft, v^hich 
alone insures victory, is given in an illuminating passage of 
her 1912 message to the Woman's Missionary Council: 

"There can be no forward movement, no era of giv- 
ing, no great offering of life except as these are attained 
through a deepening of the spiritual life of the leaders 
of the Church and a real spiritual revival among the 
members. New methods, attractive literature, cultiva- 
tion and appeals for volunteers can accomplish nothing 
unless begun, continued, and completed in prayer and 
permeated from first to last with the Holy Spirit." 

It must be understood that Miss Bennett did not ques- 
tion the power of the Holy Spirit to use any absolutely sur- 
rendered life, but she counted no life qualified for largest 
service which had not appropriated every available oppor- 
tunity for preparation for that work. "Time spent in 
preparation is time spent in service" was one of her familiar 
expressions when urging volunteers to get ready for their 
tasks. She believed a chance at an education was the di- 
vine right of the child and that it was the duty of the 
Church and State to make this possible. She realized that 
economic power made it possible for State institutions to 
offer larger opportunity because of better equipment than 
the average Church school could afford. For that reason 
the State universities and colleges make larger appeal to 
young students who want the best and most modern prep- 
aration. She had largest sympathy with their view, but 
she believed such opportunity purchased at the cost of 
Christian educational influence detrimental to character. In 
keeping with her breadth of spirit she most heartily believed 
in coeducation. She could never see the value of break- 
ing, for four years of higher intellectual pursuit, the nat- 
ural relations begun in the home, continued in the ele- 



ii6 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

mentary schools, to be renewed later in social life. The 
State universities, with their splendid equipment, in many 
places were admitting women on the same basis as men 
without making provision of dormitories for them. Re- 
ligious instruction was prohibited in some of these schools; 
and while many noble men and women in the faculties un- 
consciously molded life by the power of Christian personal- 
ity, there were others who wielded anti-Christian influence 
by the same power of personality. In some of the South- 
em States one-third of the student bodies in the State uni- 
versities were Methodists or of Methodist families. 

Miss Bennett was convinced that the greatest home mis- 
sion work of the Church was the Christianizing and build- 
ing up in Christ of the splendid student bodies of State 
educational institutions. She felt so keenly that the Church 
should take steps to meet this situation that she made it the 
leading passage of her message to the Woman's Board of 
Home Misisons in 1904: 

"The Church may not expect in this generation to 
rank with the State in well-equipped industrial schools. 
Such institutions as most of our States are now estab- 
lishing require a large appropriation for buildings and 
an annual grant for running expenses. Tuition is free 
to all who can attend them. Why should not the Church 
of God take advantage of these great opportunities? As 
a people we have so persistently declared the separation 
of Church and State a national necessity that as Chris- 
tians we have, in a measure, overlooked the fact that 
Church and State must work together for the highest 
good of the nation. 

"One of the greatest works of the Christian Woman's 
Board of Missions has been to erect and maintain Bible 
schools on the grounds of some of our State universi- 
ties. Through these they have touched in the best way 
the lives of many of the strongest and ablest men and 
women of our country. 

"If this Board will indorse the erection of a dormi- 
tory or cooperative boarding home on or near the 
grounds of our State industrial schools, putting these 



HER LIFE WORK 117 

buildings under deaconess supervision and manage- 
ment, making them practical Christian homes and train- 
ing schools, we can, at a minimum expense, surround 
our young people with broader religious and education- 
al opportunities. May we not, too, through the influence 
of such Christian homes leaven the student body of the 
State institutions? There are many men in Southern 
Methodism who, if they can be made to see that such a 
movement is worth while, will give the money to 
further it. One such building at Denton, Tex., Ruston, 
La., or Milledgeville, Ga., would be the planting of a 
seed corn that would eventually bring forth a bountiful 
harvest. 

*T ask your thoughtful and prayerful study of this 
subject, and, if in the judgment of the Board it seems 
a practicable and possible movement, that during this 
session you formulate some plan for putting it before 
the Church and on the hearts and consciences of the 
women." 

It was absolutely beyond the power of the Board to 
finance such institutions at that time. The total available 
collection that year was $59,414.98, of which $14,690 was 
appropriated by the law to parsonages. Experience had 
made caution in the suggestion of new enterprises a virtue, 
as the eagerness of many members of the society for some- 
thing "new under the sun" could easily dissipate funds 
from work already dependent upon the Board for support. 
For this reason no action was taken upon this paragraph of 
her message by the Board in annual session. But that this 
suggestion was the outleading of the Spirit is made clear 
in the light of history. The North Texas Conference 
Woman's Home Mission Society took it up at its next an- 
nual meeting and launched the building of the first Meth- 
odist dormitory at the College of Industrial Arts, in Den- 
ton, Tex. Mrs. L. P. Smith, the instrument under God for 
working out Miss Bennett's vision, gives these connecting 
links between the message and its accomplishment: 

"Miss Bennett talked with me of the way the Cana- 
dian Methodists had worked things out and then when 



1 18 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

she put it in her message I saw how disappointed she 
was that nothing was done about it. I went home and 
wrote to the Secretary at Toronto and also to the North 
Forks (Dak.) University and secured a very fine maga- 
zine article. All I could get was favorable. Then 
Dr. Mouzon and Dr. Ward, later Bishops, were inter- 
viewed and promised help. I also talked to Dr. Boaz 
about the cost of dormitories. Miss Bennett lent her 
faith and encouragement. The next step was to present 
the matter to the North Texas Conference Society. 
God led all the way." 

The character of this first Southern Methodist Church 
dormitory at a State school is noted in a letter to Miss 
Bennett's fast friend, Mrs. L. H. Glide, dated May 21, 
1921: 

"Did I write you after my visit to the College of In- 
dustrial Arts, in Denton, Tex., where we erected our 
first woman's dormitory, known as the Smith-Carroll 
Hall? That institution has in it a spiritual atmosphere 
that you probably will not find in any denominational 
school in all the country. I am sure that these dormi- 
tories, with the trained and spiritual-minded Bible 
teachers which we are putting into them are the open 
doors through which God is letting us find a way to the 
hearts and lives of the splendid young men and women 
who go to the State institutions." 

This first venture of the Southern Methodist women, at 
Miss Bennett's call, into its work of conserving to the 
Church and nation its educated youth was followed by the 
Oklahoma Methodist women in their dormitory at the State 
University in Norman, Okla., by a second Texas Methodist 
dormitory at the State University in Austin, and by the 
Methodist women of Missouri at the State University in 
Columbia. 

Her vision of possibilities of the Church's service en- 
larged as Miss Bennett led in this work among students. 
"If the Church is going to hold the strong, forceful young 
people who come up through her Sunday schools, Epworth 



HER LIFE WORK I19 

Leagues, and other organizations, she must keep in touch 
with them during their student hfe," was her repeated cry. 
She saw potential volunteers for definite Christian work 
among the earnest, purposeful men and women of the nor- 
mal schools of the country. Accordingly she urged that 
deaconesses, especially adapted to work with students, be 
stationed in the Churches nearest such schools whenever 
their support could be secured. 

This call for work among normal students explains the 
appointment of deaconesses to Richmond, Ky., nominally 
to aid Miss Bennett in her large correspondence. The fruit- 
fulness of this endeavor is attested by many a teacher in the 
State whose social-religious vision and spiritual life were 
quickened by Sunday school and mission study classes w^th 
the deaconess. One of the teachers in Ginling College was 
won in this personal and spiritual way to serve in China. 

In her last years Miss Bennett dreamed of great State 
educational federations in the South built up of denomi- 
national colleges around State universities. "By these fed- 
erations," she wrote an intimate friend a few months before 
she went away, "the splendid men and women who attend 
State universities may have a religious atmosphere and in- 
fluence round about them and the students of denomination- 
al institutions may have the benefit of great university 
curricula and special departments which State money fur- 
nishes." It remains for the American youth of the future, 
as he fixes his eyes upon the great horizon from which she 
caught the vision, to bring it to full fruition. 

While Miss Bennett's search for men and women for the 
great mission fields of the world led her into fellowship and 
large sympathy with college groups. It did not narrow her 
friendships and appreciation of other young people whose 
lives were Invested in other avenues of service. There are 
many men and women holding honorable positions in busi- 
ness and other enterprises who date their opportunities of 



I20 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

promotion to her kindly consideration and financial loans 
when they began their careers or needed the boosting of 
her sympathetic confidence. She had great pride in the 
success of young women in professional life and watched 
with eager interest the ventures of young girls in the busi- 
ness world. 

Throughout her public career Belle Harris Bennett 
wrought longest and most fervently for the youth of the 
land. This woman, with a world mother heart, held out 
her hand to guide the boys and girls of this age into that 
high realm where obedience purchases fellowship with God, 
where prayer opens wide his treasure house of rich graces, 
and where "working together with him" wins world citizen- 
ship. This was the burden of her message which burned 
its way into the hearts of those who knew and loved her. 
To those who heard and to those who know her only 
through the deeds that she wrought, the spirit of the woman 
whose torch was "kindled at the altar builded in love's 
name" cries: 

"To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch. 
Be yours to hold it high." 



CHAPTER VII 
WORK WITH NEGROES 

The first record of Miss Bennett's public service in be- 
half of the colored peoples of the South is found in her 
journal entry of October i8, 1891, when she had gone to 
Wilmington, N. C, to present the need of the missionary 
Training School at one of Mr. Sam Jones' meetings: "Mr. 
Jones had the announcement made that I would like to talk 
to the women Monday afternoon and to the Negroes at 
night. I was so cowardly about the latter." 

With this beginning she went forward in her spirit of 
helpfulness as the way opened, speaking in Churches of 
colored people, to colored charity associations, teaching 
Bible classes, and befriending individual Negroes. The most 
vivid memory the women of the Board of Home Missions 
will ever carry of IMiss Bennett was the Sabbath morning, 
May 5, 1901, at old St. John's Southern Methodist Church, 
St. Louis, when she presented the need of organized 
woman's work among Negro women and girls. Mrs. J. D. 
Hammond gives this beautiful story of the beginning of 
woman's organized work among colored people: 

"Miss Bennett wanted to begin work at Paine years 
before it was done, but felt that the prejudice must die 
down somewhat before it was feasible. ■ Finally, in an\ 
swer to the argument that prejudice would die soonerX 
if somebody fought it, she turned to God for guidance. \ 
There were three who prayed that afternoon in that \ 
upper room, and light was given. When the prayers 
vreve ended she rose from her knees and said, *We will 
begin to-morrow morning.' And she did. 

"That is my most vivid memory of her, as she stood 
in St. John's Church, St. Louis, that Sunday morning 
and spoke to that rich, fashionable congregation of these 
who are of the brotherhood. Despite her attractiveness 

(121) 



122 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

and her noble presence she was not a beautiful woman; 
but she was beautiful that day. Her face shone like an 
angel's. She spoke as simply and humbly as a child, 
but she moved the people like wheat in the wind. The 
thing she saw came clear to them — the oneness of the 
human race, of human need, of human obligation." 

The minutes of that meeting, written by the Secretary, 
Mrs. Emily Allen Siler, gives this detailed accotmt of that 
session: 

"At the close of the morning sermon Miss Bennett 
made a brief, forceful talk upon the different fields of 
service entered by the Home Mission Society, and stated 
that it was the wish and intention of the Board to enter 
a new department of work which had long interested 
many of its members. Just as soon as $5,000 could be 
secured, it was proposed to build a girls' hall at Paine 
College, Augusta, Ga., where Negro girls could be 
trained in industrial branches. She wished to give $500 
to that enterprise, half of that amount to be given in 
memory of her old nurse, 'Mammy Ritter.' Miss Helm 
gave $100 in memory of her old nurse, 'Aunt Gillie,* 
and Dr. Palmore subscribed $500 in memory of Aunt 
Phillis,' his nurse. Other gifts followed, amounting in 
all to about $1,700 that day." 

Miss Bennett's good statesmanship was shown in lead- 
ing the women in cooperation with Paine College, the only 
institution of the Church for Negroes, instead of branch- 
ing out into a new school. Dr. George Williams Walker, 
the polished, cultured scholar, divinely called to the Presi- 
dency of Paine College, had struggled from the beginning 
with insufficient money and a none too sympathetic Church 
back of him. He was greatly enheartened by this coopera- 
tion of the women and worked as a true yokefellow with 
them until his death, ten years later. 

The reception given by the women of the Church for 
this new enterprise and the quality of Miss Bennett's gentle, 
persuasive leadership are recognized in this message to the 
Board at the succeeding session in 1902: 



HER LIFE WORK 123 

"When this Board held its meeting in St. Louis, one 
year ago, the estabhshment of an Industrial Annex for 
Colored girls at Paine Institute was left with the Ex- 
ecutive Committee. Five thousand dollars as a volun- 
tary offering was to be secured before the building at 
Paine should be erected; and although the Committee 
was assiduous in its effort to secure the amount, not 
until the very close of the fiscal year was the sum in 
hand sufficiently large to justify our belief that the house 
can be made ready for use for the opening of the fall 
session. While some of us could not see, in the be- 
ginning why He to whom the gold and silver and the 
cattle upon a thousand hills belong, withheld the im- 
mediate answer to our prayer for this sum of money, 
we can look back now and see how loving was the 
divine wisdom which ordered the delay, compelling us 
to lay this new and, as some felt, objectionable work 
upon the hearts and consciences of the entire Church. 
Blind eyes have been opened, deaf ears unstopped, and 
hearts once cold and indifferent have become warm and 
tender. All prejudice Is not yet allayed, but many have 
said: 'Thank God for the opening of this door!' Truly, 
'He maketh the crooked places straight and the dark 
places light.' The Board can now press forward with 
this department of work, knowing that the great body 
of the Church will commend and assist. But we ear- 
nestly entreat that every member of this Board shall do 
this work, remembering that race prejudice is to be 
overcome only by divine grace, and that 'there is neither 
Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free : for ye 
all are one in Christ Jesus.' Be gentle, very gentle, in 
dealing with those who do not regard this work as we 
do ourselves." 

Of course there was opposition to this w^ork among 
Negroes ; there had been opposition to every new enterprise 
of the Board, and it could not be expected that what seemed 
to some as radical an undertaking as this should pass with- 
out censure. Miss Bennett's forceful personality and de- 
termined steadfastness and the loyalty of her cohorts soon 
quieted open expression. In a characteristic letter to the 
General Secretary she gives one of the secrets of her avoid- 
ance of open difficulties: 



124 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"Just one more request, and I believe I will even say 
injunction. Don't let anybody disturb you on the mat- 
ter of our work among God's poor, black-skinned chil- 
dren. May I suggest, out of my own experience, that 
you tell the deaconesses and other workers, as I shall 
most surely do from the platform at our next meeting 
(unless the Executive Committee prohibits), that when 
they receive letters or communications of an offensive 
nature about the Negro work, unless it is a public at- 
tack, never to allow anybody but the Secretary at Nash- 
ville or the President at Richmond to know that they 
have had such. Nothing so surely takes the wind out of 
sails like these as to absolutely ignore them. I used to 
get anonymous letters and various things of that kind 
concerning my work. After reading the letter, or gen- 
erally just a bit of it, I would strike a match to it and 
promptly forget that I had ever received it. It helps 
the writer to believe that you never got it. To ignore 
a wrong is to pour ointment on a suppurating abscess." 

This woman's work grew at Paine College until in 19 13 
a third building was added, a splendid brick dormitory, 
which, at the request of the students, was called "Bennett 
Hall" in honor of the beloved President of the Board. Miss 
Bennett's abiding faith in God's goodness and his ultimate 
purpose for the human race gave her great faith in the 
future of the Negro. She recognized his achievement of 
character and the individual accomplishment of many Negro 
leaders despite untoward handicaps. Progress was the law 
of life to her, and she believed in the progress of the whole 
Negro race. She could not feel that God's object was served 
nor that man's end of any race was 

"Attained, his genuine strength put fairly forth, 
While only here and there a star dispels 
The darkness, here and there a towering mind 
O'erlooks its prostrate fellows." 

The genius of her faith in the establishment of God's 
kingdom on earth made her work unceasingly, regardless 
of race inheritance to bring that day 



HER LIFE WORK 12$ 

"When all mankind is perfected, 
Equal in full bloom." 

It was this conviction which made her declare that "obedi- 
ence is the keynote of service and the cost of fellowship 
with God" when she talked with young people who had 
lives to invest. How often she asked: "Are you ready to 
go quickly to the more than fifty million unchurched, neg- 
nected, unsaved people of our land? Has the Holy Spirit 
taught you to look upon and love the dark-skinned people 
among whom you were born and reared as our brothers and 
sisters? The Master said: 'A new commandment I give 
unto you, that ye love one another, even as I have loved 
you, that ye cJso love one another. By this shall all men 
know that ye are my disciples, if ye have loved one aru- 
other.' " 

On one such occasion at Vanderbilt University, a stu- 
dent sought an interview with her which developed in his 
request that she might talk with his mother, who was with- 
holding consent for him to give his life to work among 
Negroes. The gifted, consecrated son had volunteered for 
this service while the mother, widow of a Methodist preach- 
er, could not be willing for her son to be sacrificed upon the 
altar of work among colored folk. It is not strange that 
knowledge like this should send her to a Preachers' Insti- 
tute in 19 lo with the following address: 

The Mission of the Church to the Negro 

"Something more than a year ago a Hindoo student 
matriculated in one of the large colleges of our South- 
em Middle West. Immediately it became necessary for 
the Y. M. C. A. Secretary to take a day off to find a 
boarding place for the young stranger. The Chris- 
tian Woman's Board of Missions had established a dor- 
mitory on the grounds of this college, and, after some 
discussion on the part of the superintendent, board was 
.secured at this place for the young Hindoo. The fol- 
lowing day five young men indignantly left the House, 



126 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

one of the five being a student volunteer for mission 
work in Africa. I relate this fact as an instance of the 
unreasoning race prejudice that still obtains in the 
Church of God. 

"A Negro, of course, w^ould not have been admitted 
to the college. If by any chance such a thing had oc- 
curred, the entire student body would have rebelled and 
the State legislature would have passed a bill by unani- 
mous vote prohibiting interracial education. This 
young student volunteer had doubtless been born and 
reared in a Christian family, and his conception of the 
Fatherhood of God and the brotherhod of man had 
been given him in the Sunday school and the Church. 
He had gotten his ideal of a missionary career at some 
summer conference or some great Student Volunteer 
meeting, perhaps. He had an enthusiasm, possibly a 
great desire, to help his fellow men and to do the will 
of God, but you and I know how far wrong his con- 
ceptions were and how little he really knew of the mind 
of Jesus Christ. 

"My special object in relating this incident of college 
life, however, is that we may see and realize that the 
mission of the Methodist Church to the Negro is three- 
fold. The program laid down in the first chapter of 
Acts is still the line of work to be pursued by the 
Church of God. Beginning first at Jerusalem, then in 
Judea, then in Samaria, then to the uttermost parts of 
the earth. 

"Brethren, if the seven thousand itinerant preachers 
in Southern Methodism could be divested of their 
prejudice against the Negro and filled with the same 
courage that St. Paul had when he said to the Ephesian 
elders, 'I hold not my life of any account or dear unto 
myself,' etc., the Negro problem would soon be solved. 

"There is not one of us here who does not know that 
the average Negro is discounted in every relation of 
life. The white man takes it for granted that he is a 
liar and a thief. All over the land there is a lack of 
confidence, spirit of impatience, and unkindly tolerance 
that can but degrade the Negro in his own eyes. 

"If you men who stand in the pulpit could with honest 
and sincere hearts say to your congregations, 'These 
black-faced, ignorant, child peoples are my brothers and 
sisters, and I intend to treat them as such,' the Negro 
problem would soon be solved. You and I know that this 



HER LIFE WORK 127 

great so-called problem is not a race problem, neither 
is it a labor problem, though both of these enter into the 
great social or community question. It is an individual 
problem. All of us have in our minds some one or more 
Negro men or women for whom we have the greatest 
respect. 

"We can no longer honestly and truthfully say the 
Negro is unworthy or incapable of improvement or of 
the best things that come to any citizen of this country. 
He has proved to the contrary. There is no good thing 
which any white man or woman in the land can claim, 
except some positions in the civil government of the 
country, that the Negro has not shown himself equal 
to. 

"Neither is it a social question. None of us in the 
South need be afraid of that. We have but to look at 
the Jewish people in our midst, with their wealth, 
culture, and the splendid history behind them, and see 
how few inter-marriages are between this great people 
and the Christian people of this land, to assure ourselves 
of the fact that the social equality question has but a 
small part in the Negro problem. 

"The mission of the Church to the Negro race must 
begin with the preacher in the pulpit. When the preach- 
ers of the Church are able to declare to their congrega- 
tions that they intend to be neighbors in the truest 
sense of the word to the Negroes round about them 
and that the Word of God teaches that the Negro is 
as truly a child of God as the white man and can as 
surely be redeemed from sin as the white man, the 
mission of the Church will have assuredly been begun 
to the Negro. From whom does the Negro get his con- 
ception of God, of honesty, of virtue, of right living in 
any form, except from the white men and women round 
about him? 

"I know that the intention of the framers of the pro- 
gram when they asked me to speak on the Mission of 
the Church to the Negro desired an expression of the 
belief of the womanhood of the Church as to our im- 
mediate duties to the Negro in some practical, concrete 
form. I would say, therefore, in the first place take an 
interest in the things that the Negroes are doing in 
your own community and let them know that you be- 
lieve in their improvability and have confidence in their 



128 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

ability and desire to become honest, upright, good 
citizens. 

"At a great educational meeting of the Negroes in 
my own town, one to which I know a number of the 
prominent citizens had been especially invited, my pas- 
tor and I were the only white people present. What- 
ever is good for the betterment or the uplift of the white 
man, woman, or child is equally as good for the Negro. 
How is it that we have established no training school 
for Negro women or men when we see the great need 
for Bible teaching among them, for house-to-house 
visitation, for all the forms of Christian settlement 
work? How is it that we make no provision for trained 
nurses among them when we see the inroads that tu- 
berculosis, typhoid fever, and all other diseases that 
humanity is heir to makes on them ? 

"Do they not need to have clean and sanitary homes ? 
They do our laundry work, they nurse our children, 
they make our beds and cook our food, and their lives 
lie closer to ours than do the lives of our neighbors or 
kinsfolk. We are not separating ourselves from them ; 
they are an intimate and vital part of our home life 
and will continue to be. If they suffer we too must 
suffer with them. 

"What has our great Church done for them in an 
educational way in the half century since they were 
emancipated? We have had a part, just a part, in two 
schools for their higher Christian education. How 
meager and unworthy has been our work for them ! 
The General Board of Education has brought this mat- 
ter to the attention of the Church during the past four 
years, until a few of the people are beginning to see and 
to feel ashamed of their neglect and failure." 

The confusion and immoral influence of the small cabin, 
overcrowded homes of the Negro slums that abound in 
every Southern town produce some of the acute problems 
of the colored people. Under the influence of Miss Ben- 
nett, Miss Estelle Raskin, when teacher of social activities 
at the Methodist Training School, led the students of the 
institution into various forms of service which tended to 
better some of these conditions in one of the Negro com- 
munities of Nashville, Tenn. These efforts resulted in the 



HER LIFE WORK 129 

establishment of Bethlehem Houses in Nashville, Tenn., 
and Augusta, Ga., by the Woman's Board of Home Mis- 
sions. Children, young people, and overburdened women 
gather in these settlements for recreational, educational, and 
inspirational activities which are impossible in their homes. 
The Governing Boards of tliese institutions are composed 
of white and colored people whose common toil and re- 
sponsibility for the uplift of the needy Negroes in con- 
gested black neighborhoods is breaking into the indifference 
and prejudice of both, and interprets the races to each 
other as no other organization has done. Miss Bennett 
followed the development of this work with keenest inter- 
est and frequently visited some class or club to inspire the 
children or old people by an address. Her courteous con- 
sideration of others and power of begetting love always 
won the hearts of these black folks. On one occasion she 
spoke to a Mothers' Club, and after she had finished an old 
Negro woman heaved a sigh and, turning to another, said 
in unctious voice: "Well, bress de Lawd, all the old-time 
white women ain't dead yit." 

In nothing did Miss Bennett show her wise leadership 
more effectively than in her effort to safeguard the mis- 
sionaries and deaconseses appointed to Negro' work from 
the danger of impatience and acrimony as they met oppo- 
sition from white Church people to this work into which 
they were pouring their lives. When these tendencies were 
detected, she insisted upon restoration to normalcy by 
change of appointment, not alone for the spirit of the work- 
er, but that friction between the races might not retard the 
movement. 

With multiplied responsibilities weighing upon the ad- 
ministrative force of organized work, there is an ever- 
present temptation for one to lose herself in movements 
and thus fail in the joy of personal service. Miss. Bennett 
was a remarkable exception to this rule; all through her 
9 



I30 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

long public service there runs the golden thread of work 
with individuals^ — folks for whom Christ died. The great 
debt of the Christian to the brotherhood might be met by 
organizations, but for her there was always involved a per- 
sonal equation which she could not pass to another. This 
spirit of personal service led her into activities for the 
help of Negroes in her own town. It was not as teacher 
she gave herself to them, but in the bonds of friendship 
she served largest and best. In sorrow and sickness and 
death they turned to her as to a gracious friend. This 
letter, dated July 4, 19 19, to Josie Bates, her colored friend 
upon whose spiritual help she depended many long years, 
reveals how very human these relationships were: 

"My Dear Josie : Where are you, and why don't you 
come on down for your vacation ? I have been expect- 
ing you ever since school closed, and still you are not 
here. Next week, Wednesday, I start for New York 
and on Saturday the 12th expect to sail for South 
America to be gone three or four months. We do not 
see each other often now ; but with the great ocean and 
thousands of miles between us, I feel as if we might 
not be together again for a long time. 

"I found the box of pretty violets you sent me in my 
mail when I came home. They were withered of 
course, but just as much appreciated, dear Josie, as if 
they had been perfectly fresh. 

"Poor Mrs. Bettie Moberly, who has been living at 
the hotel since Mr. Moberly died, was stricken with apo- 
plexy early this morning and has been dying all day. 
She is in the room just next mine, and I shall miss her 
very much. Miss Jennie Taylor came as soon as it was 
phoned her and has been sitting beside her bedside 
holding her hand. They have been lifelong friends. 
Well, if I don't see you before I go, think of me, and 
pray for me, as your affectionate friend always." 

A note on the back of this letter kindly loaned for "Miss 
Belle's biography" says: "When this letter came to me I 
left London on the first train and came home. I was with 



HER LIFE WORK 131 

Miss Belle ^11 day before she went for this long journey. 
Day and night we (she and Stephen, her husband) prayed 
over her going and for the work." 

Miss Bennett's distinct contribution to the Negroes of 
Richmond was a Bible study class into which she was 
thrust by the outleading of the Holy Spirit. For years 
she had been burdened because the Southern Methodist 
Church had not entered the door opened into Africa in the 
last decade of the nineteenth century at the time the South- 
ern Presbyterian Church began work in the Belgian Congo. 
Money had not been available and the Church was thus de- 
layed. One day as she agonized in prayer, asking God to 
open the way for the Church to enter this dark, needy land, 
he seemed to answer, saying: "Why not do something for 
Africa at home in the meantime?" So convinced was she 
that it was the voice of God that straightway she went to 
the telephone and called a Negro pastor whom she knew 
and asked if there was anything she could do for Negroes 
in Richmond. His feeling reply was: "O Miss Belle, my 
wife and I have been praying every day for nearly a year 
that you might spare some of your time for us, but you 
seemed so busy!" An interview with the pastor followed, 
which resulted in the organization of a Bible study class 
the next Sabbath, with all the Negro preachers in the town 
as her pupils. The superintendent of the Sunday school 
of the African Methodist Episcopal Church tells of the 
growth of this class and also of Miss Bennett's financial 
help to the Church: 

"Miss Bennett taught a Bible study class at St. Paul 
A. M. E. Church from 1900 to 1904 every Sunday at 
three o'clock. It was well attended, ranging from 200 
to 500 members. She would often speak to our Mis- 
sionary Society and Allen Christian Endeavor League, 
and when she could get any prominent speakers of the 
white race she arranged for them to talk to us. 

"In 1905, under the pastorate of Rev. J. W. Cald- 



132 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

well, the church was about to be sold to pay off a 
mortgage; Miss Bennett loaned the Church the $2,- 
000 needed to save the Church. She was so liberal with 
the loan she did not set a time for the Church to re- 
turn the money, but allowed the members to pay as 
they made it until it was all raised. Every time they 
paid $100 she gave them $10. 

"Miss Belle was greatly beloved by the pastors and 
the members and little children. Whenever we were 
in need spiritually or financially she always came to our 
rescue. We looked upon her as our leader and as a 
mother because she took so much interest in us." 

The pastor of the First Baptist Church at Richmond, 
Ky., Rev. J. W. Broaddus, also shows the influence of the 
Bible study class upon the community and her sympathetic 
response to their every need: 

"The Bible study class conducted in one of our 
Churches was a source of great inspiration which made 
a definite contribution to the religious life of our com- 
munity. Many of our leaders and Christian workers 
received their inspiration from this class. 

"Miss Bennett was interested in every phase of our 
community life, whether economic, civic, or religious, 
and we were always sure of sympathetic consideration 
when we sought her advice or requested help. More 
than once she went to the rescue of struggling Churches, 
and in some instances her efforts alone saved the 
churches for the congregations. Truthfully it may be 
said : 'She went about doing good.' " 

Miss Bennett claimed she could never have rendered this 
timely aid to their Churches had it not been for the friendly 
help of her brother, Mr. Waller Bennett, who stood by her 
in adjusting these loans. On one occasion they both went 
on the note when a church was mortgaged for $4,000. 
The Negroes were fifteen years paying it off, bringing their 
moneys in small amounts tied up in handkerchiefs, in stock- 
ings, and other receptacles. There was a great celebration 
when the debt was paid ; the released mortgage was laid on 



HER LIFE WORK 133 

a tin platter, a lighted match applied to it, and as the smoke 
ascended the Negroes gathered around and shouted their 
praise to the Lord that their Church was free of debt. 

Those who know the Negroes of to-day are well aware 
of the fact that there are distinct classes among them, as 
there are among white people who have had different op- 
portunity for cultural education. In some respects these 
differences are more accentuated and the classes and 
masses more separated among colored people than among 
the white. Bearing this fact in mind, it will be easily under- 
stood what this young Negro preacher in Richmond meant 
when he said: 

"Miss Belle was a good Samaritan to the Negroes. 
There are two elements among my people, the highly 
spiritual and emotional and the cultured class. Miss 
Belle could reach both elements and say just the right 
word at the rigth time. Our community problems were 
brought to her to be settled; whenever we needed 
money, she loaned it to us and we were just as careful 
to pay it back with interest as if we had borrowed it 
from the bank; she was an intercessor between her 
people and mine and between the two factions of my 
own race. Our strongest prop has been taken from us." 

It was not only in the Church relations Miss Bennett 
ministered to these dark people of her town, but, as this 
paragraph from Rev. J. W. Broaddus shows, she entered 
into their civic affairs and stood for justice and fairness 
before the whole community: 

"Sometime ago the high school building for whites 
was destroyed by fire. A bond issue for raising money 
to erect a new biulding was submitted to all voters. 
Opposition to the measure was pronounced on all sides, 
and it soon became apparent that the Negro vote would 
be the decisive factor in the contest. After several 
mass meetings it was finally decided, upon the advice of 
Miss Bennett, that in the event the bonds carried certain 
improvements should be made at the colored high 



134 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

school. The bond issue carried, and a magnificent high 
school building was erected for the whites. There was 
some delay in getting the work under way at the col- 
ored school, and in the meantime Miss Bennett 'fell 
asleep,' but she made provision in her last will and 
testament to take care of these improvements at the 
colored school in the event the school board failed to 
keep faith with our people. The school board did keep 
faith. This incident is referred to only to show her 
fine sense of fairness and justice. 

"In her passing we have sustained an irreparable 
loss, for in her service to mankind she knew no race, 
nor color, nor sect. Her life was a beautiful demon- 
stration of her faith in the Fatherhood of God and the 
brotherhood of man." 

A notable work for Negroes into which Miss Bennett 
personally entered was the organization of the Madison 
County Colored Chautauqua, which came to splendid reali- 
zation in May, 19 15. Of this enterprise Rev. J. W. Broad- 

dus says: 

"Miss Bennett was the moving spirit in the organiza- 
tion of the Madison County Colored Chautauqua, which, 
as an influence for good, has been felt throughout the 
South. The spirit of the movement is best expressed 
in the motto, 'Better homes, better schools, and better 
Churches.' Under the auspices of this movement some 
of the best men and women of both races have spoken 
to large and appreciative audiences of our people. It is 
generally accepted that no institution, aside from the 
Church, has made a larger or more beneficial contribu- 
tion to my people. Miss Bennett for a number of years 
was our president and presided in our annual meet- 
ings." 

Miss Bennett's account of this enterprise, before its 
opening, in a letter to Mrs. George Call, of Texas, gives an 
insight into the labor involved and something of her 
spirit: 

"This week I am to have a great time with a Colored 
Chautauqua, here in my own town, which I have been 



HER LIFE WORK 135 

'promoting' for the past six weeks. The Lord has been 
good to me, for I had no idea into what deep water I 
was pkmging when I promised the Negroes to help 
them with this enterprise. Two men of the county, 
however, Superintendent of PubHc Instruction and 
State Agricultural Agent, have thrown themselves into 
it and have made it possible when I could not have done 
it at all. When this is over, even though the weather 
may continue very hot, I mean to sit down, take a long 
breath, and give thanks to the 'Giver of every good and 
perfect gift.' " 

A letter to Miss Mabel Head, dated August 10, 191 5, 
gives this graphic account: 

"Our Colored Chautauqua was a big success ! I came 

very near using the vulgarism 'howling success,' but 
when I remember the splendid, quiet, well-dressed audi- 
ences that sat day after day listening, with large hun- 
gry eyes to much that was not understandable to many 
of the people, I would not for a great deal apply such 
a term to them. I could but wish for you and Miss 
Haskin the night Dr. Dubois spoke. To an audience 
of quite fifteen hundred Negroes, with less than twenty- 
five white people in it, he gave the most brilliant and 
superbly delivered outline on the history of the Negro 
race. He seemed quite as familiar with French, and I 
should say possibly Arabic, as with the English. He 
gave us a few raps as Christians and white folks that 
were perhaps well deserved. He spoke of the Mo- 
hammedan invasion of Africa as an era unparalleled 
in the history of a race. Christianity with its slave 
trade was the next great era in that then largely un- 
known and unexplored country. The striking com- 
ment which followed was that the Mohammedan religion 
both preached and practiced the brotherhood of man; 
Christianity preached but failed to practice. Of course, 
his address was far above the comprehension of the 
average Negro, and I felt as Dr. and Mrs. Frost, of 
Berea, who were with me, expressed it, that we were 
losing a great opportunity. But it is not altogether 
lost, because these people saw, with admiring eyes, one 
of the great men of their race, and thy will not forget 
his striking personality and commanding appearance. 
We really had five days of exceptionally good things, 



136 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

winding up with Shepherd on Sunday afternoon at our 
peace meeting and a splendid address on Good Citizen- 
ship from my pastor, Dr. Horton, at night. The elec- 
tion was just over, and he caught the Negroes com- 
pletely with his references to vote buying, selling, etc. 

"I went up last night to a final business meeting, de- 
termined to lay down my honors and retire permanently 
from Chautauqua administrations, but they were so 
grateful for what had come to them and so unwilling 
for me to leave them to stagger on as best they could, 
I didn't have the courage or gumption to just say: 'I 
can't and won't.' Of course they want one next year. 
All these people need is a leader in whom they have 
confidence. Before I close I will give myself the pleas- 
ure of informing you that many of my friends and 
neighbors, and a few kinsfolk, were so impressed with 
the success of the Chautauqua and the number of able 
speakers present that they have almost forgotten that 
they wholly disapproved of the enterprise. Josie and 
Stephen came down from London in time to render 
most efficient help. Tell Hackey that I have quoted her 
so frequently to a number of my fellow Chautauquans, 
she will find that she is pretty well known to some of 
them when she comes to Richmond again." 

The following testimonial from Dr. Henry Allen Lane, 
the Madison County Agent of the Cooperative Extension 
Work in Agriculture and Home Economics of the State 
of Kentucky, brings to Miss Bennett's friends throughout 
the world this vivid picture of how she loved and served 
the Negro race in the community where she was best 
known: 

"Colored people are by nature kind-hearted and ap- 
preciative, loyal and devoted, and, contrary to the gen- 
eral belief, they do not crave nor seek social equality 
and ultimate interracial amalgamation; they simply 
want social justice — their inalienable rights upheld and 
safeguarded. However, they believe that more social 
contact among the better classes of white and colored 
people would be helpful to all and strengthen the bonds 
of interracial friendship, promote mutual respect and 
understanding, and advance America's right to the 
moral leadership of the world. 



HER LIFE WORK 137 

"I became acquainted with Miss Belle H. Bennett 
about the year 1915 in a mass meeting called for the 
organization of the Madison County Colored Institute- 
Chautauqua. Miss Bennett had been requested by the 
promoters of this worthy organization to serve as its 
first president. She consented and served as presi- 
dent for a part of three years. Her administration was 
marked by unfailing interest, indefatigable industry, 
firmness, kindness, strict attention to details, and con- 
tagious enthusiasm. She brought together the different 
religious groups of Richmond and Madison County, 
torn asunder by denominational strife — Methodists, 
Baptists, Calvinists — and united them into an eiTective 
force for the uplift and enlightenment of the colored 
people of Madison County. Through her committees she 
brought to Richmond a brilliant array of Negro talent 
from all parts of the country — Carver, Dubois, Proctor, 
Simmons — whose lectures, addresses, sermons electri- 
fied, uplifted, and enlightened the colored people of 
Madison County as well as people from adjoining coun- 
ties. She was democratic in her dealings with colored 
people, as the following incident will show : I think it 
was one Friday evening in August, 19 16, during the In- 
stitute-Chautauqua, that Dr. W. E. B. Dubois, famous 
scholar, orator, and sociologist, was to speak; 1,500 peo- 
ple, white and colored, crowded into the ball park to 
hear the address. Some one decided to rope off a space 
for the exclusive use of white people. Miss Belle, notic- 
ing the roped space, inquired what it meant and when 
told its purpose she at once ordered it removed and gave 
orders for the space to be filled up by whosoever desired 
a seat, and so far as I know no white person was in the 
least offended. The love and respect of the colored peo- 
ple followed her across the sea, when she visited China 
in 1916 as I remember. During the Chautauqua of that 
year a sort of informal farewell reception was given 
her at the ball park, which was closed by Dr. H. H. 
Proctor's prayer for her safe voyage and return. One 
sentence in that prayer lingers in my memory. Miss 
Belle, dressed in spotless white, stood, with bowed head 
surrounded by colored friends, while Dr. Proctor, 
famous colored Congregational minister from Atlanta, 
Ga., stood by her side with his hand lifted above her 
head prayed God to 'allow no deadly submarine to 



138 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

come near her bark.' Fervent amens were heard on 
every side. She made her voyage and safe return. 

"One more incident will show her deep interest in 
the colored people. One fine evening, in the fall of 
1920, accompanied by her secretary, Deaconess Olm- 
stead, Mr. Neal Bennett, and Dr. Telford, she motored 
down to my place on the Irvine Road, and requested me 
to go with them to visit some colored schools. She 
seemed greatly to enjoy the calls; and as the pupils 
listened with smiles on their dark faces as she talked 
to them, I thought of Florence Nightingale visiting the 
Turkish hospitals at Scutari. By her death the colored 
people lost a true friend, whose place in their hearts 
can never be filled." 

After the great World War, when the true spirit of 
patriotism was appealing to the citizenship of the United 
States, the Commission on Interracial Cooperation came 
into being. When the leaders of the movement sought to 
enlist the womanhood of the nation in this effort for inter- 
racial good will, they turned to Miss Bennett for coopera- 
tion and leadership. Dr. W. W. Alexander, Director of the 
Commission, thus reveals how Miss Bennett's influence had 
been working as leaven through the years to make ready a 
people to help create the Woman's Work of this Commis- 
sion on Interracial Cooperation: 

"Through my contact with the Bethlehem House in 
Nashville, I became aware of the progressive attitude 
which the leaders of the Woman's Missionary Council 
were taking regarding Negroes. I kept in close touch 
with this through the years and knew of the growing 
interest which Miss Bennett and others had. On this, 
I based my faith that Southern women could be made 
to take a larger interest, and I requested my Commis- 
sion to grant me the privilege of taking the matter up, 
as a first step, with the women of the Council. This 
led to correspondence with Miss Bennett and, at her 
invitation, a visit by me to the Council at its Kansas 
City meeting. I made an address, suggesting that the 
Council appoint a committee to restudy their relation 
to the whole situation in view of the new conditions. 



HER LIFE WORK 139 

This was met with immediate response and support 
from Miss Bennett, and a committee was appointed. 

"With this nucleus I went forward, calHng a meet- 
ing at Memphis of women representing many Southern 
organizations of women. In the development of this 
meeting I had Miss Bennett's full support. She was 
present and helped to guide it with her masterly hand. 
I have a feeling that Miss Bennett, more than anybody 
else, had through the years laid the foundation for the 
new attitude which Southern women are taking, and I 
do know that she, more than anybody else, put into my 
head the calling of this Memphis meeting and the at- 
tempt to reach our Southern women. I cannot state 
this too strongly." 

No mention can be made of Miss Bennett's work among 
Negroes without reference to her distress over the de- 
plorable conditions of the little black children of the streets 
for whom neither parents nor society seemed concerned. 
She felt that society and the Church countenanced the 
increase of Negro criminals as the children of tender age 
passed through the Juvenile Courts, to return again and 
again until they ultimately found their way to the chain 
gang because of neglect. For ten years before her death 
she called attention on many platforms from which she 
spoke to this social crime. She pleaded for farm schools 
to which this neglected child life might be removed, and 
three times land was offered and moneys were given her 
for the establishment of such an institution. Once she 
felt the answer to her prayer for a Farm School for Ne- 
gro Boys was so far assured that a man trained in manu- 
al arts was engaged as principal for the school. But 
the World War intervened, and the cost of maintaining 
such an institution on a worth-while basis seemed beyond 
the power of the Woman's Missionary Council, and it was 
never established. This Farm School for Negro Boys was 
her one outstanding unrealized vision. 

Thus Belle Harris Bennett was spent in lavish manner 



I40 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

for God's dark-skinned children in her own country be- 
cause of her great human sympathy, offspring of love, that 
divine quality of her soul. It drove her into the homes of 
v/ant and squalor of the masses of these people to help the 
women and little children. Again, her faith in the progress 
and ultimate high achievement of the race forced her to 
toil that the foundation might be built upon the ethics of 
Jesus Christ, whose love brought full redemption for all the 
races of the earth. And yet again, her belief that God 
chose her to help was so implicit she could not resist the 
urge to work fellowship with him in bringing the kingdom 
for these people next her own door. Like Stradivarius of 
old she could cry: 

"My work is mine. 
And, heresy or not, if my hand slacked 
I should rob God — since he is fullest good — 
I say, not God himself can make man's best 
Without best men to help." 



CHAPTER VIII 

PRESIDENT OF THE WOMAN'S MISSIONARY 
COUNCIL 

When Miss Bennett had been President of the Woman's 
Board of Home Missions ten years she had reached the 
apex of popularity. She had traveled throughout the 
Church, and by her persuasive presentations of reasons for 
organized home missions and the compelling power of her 
personality she had won many friends for the cause. The 
institutions established under her administration had proved 
her to be a leader of vision, and men and women were 
ready to accept her leadership. The progress of the work 
was so marked that, in her own words, she had "seen the 
Home Mission Society grow from a poor little despised 
foundling to a strong agency for betterment of humanity 
but not yet a loved work of the Church." 

The Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, twelve years 
older than the Woman's Home Mission Society, was also 
a flourishing organization, carrying light, truth, and love to 
the territories allotted to the Southern Methodist Church 
in China, Korea, Brazil, Mexico, and Cuba. Miss Ben- 
nett's "wholeness of interest in the human race" made her 
throw herself through the years into this foreign work as 
she had done in the home field. As one of the three man- 
agers of the Board she was a dominant factor in stimulat- 
ing daring activity. 

Both of these woman's organizations had done a great 
work and had been signally blessed of God in doing it. In 
1906 the combined constituency was something more than 
one hundred thousand members, for at least two-thirds of 
the membership of each organization were members of 

(141) 



142 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

both. They were collecting by voluntary gifts nearly $250,- 
000, while the General Board of Missions, with 1,600,000 
Church members to draw from, a fixed assessment on each 
pastoral charge, and 6,835 itinerant preachers as collectors, 
received and expended $587,761.70 in 1906. Most of the 
members of the Woman's Misisonary Societies contributed 
also to these general collections. 

Notwithstanding this fine record of the women, the Col- 
lege of Bishops and General Board of Missions, without 
submitting the question of union to the women themselves, 
recommended to the General Conference of 1906 that the 
two woman's organizations should be consolidated. It was 
claimed that the preachers found the support of the two 
organizations in the local Church difficult and that there was 
friction between them. Others claimed the aggressive 
measures of the Woman's Home Mission Society were des- 
tined to interfere with the larger growth of the Woman's 
Foreign Missionary Society, and vice versa, that there 
would never be a chance for the home field when the 
Church was pro-foreign in its interests. The measure of 
forcing a union without giving the women an opportunity 
of expressing themselves seemed high-handed to the Gen- 
eral Conference. It resulted in the appointment of a com- 
mittee to develop plans for unifying all the missionary ac- 
tivities of the Church, to be presented to the General Con- 
ference in 1910. This committee was composed of two 
bishops, five preachers, two laymen, and four women; the 
women being the President and General Secretary, respec- 
tively, of the two woman's boards. 

The plan finally accepted by the General Conference in 
1910 merged the three mission boards into the Board of 
Missions, constituted of one-third preachers, one-third lay- 
men and one-third women, with ex-officio membership of 
all the bishops of the Church and all the officers, men and 
women. A woman's organization known as the Woman's* 



HER LIFE WORK 143 

Missionary Council, with home and foreign departments, 
was created to direct the women's activities. This plan did 
not force the auxiliaries of the local Churches or of the Con- 
ference societies to unite. It was really a federation of 
Home and Foreign Societies that functioned under this 
new body — union was left optional with the Conference 
societies. In the light of subsequent development this or- 
ganization without mandatory power concerning union was 
indefinite and to some inadequate. Miss Bennett's spirit of 
democracy would accept no terms that forced the women to 
any measures without the full consent of the majority, and 
by such a federation the final action rested with the rank and 
file. She, with the other women members of the commit- 
tee, sought to safeguard the autonomy of the woman's work, 
for in this power of self -propagation, self-support and self- 
government lay the secret of success of the woman's move- 
ments of the Church. Miss Bennett constantly insisted that 
the women must have some direction of their own work 
and never become mere collectors of moneys for missions. 
Of the plan itself Miss Bennett wrote Mrs. F. F. Stephens, 
of Columbia, Mo as follows: 

**I am a unionist, but I did not believe in the union of 
the Woman's Board with the General Board on the 
basis which we were compelled to accept. I accepted 
what they gave us, fearing something worse — complete 
subordination. The constitution under which we work 
was written by the brethren; and while we were given 
an opportunity to consider and suggest changes, it was 
not until after we reached the General Conference. 
Even then a number of suggestions were met with the 

statement : 'Bishop won't stand that.' Fifteen 

women to forty-five men haven't much showing; added 
to this the power of the Board is really centralized in 
the hands of the Secretaries in the Publishing House." 

The Executive Committees of both the woman's boards 
convened at the seat of the General Conference immediately 



144 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

after the passage of the measure to organize the new 
Woman's Missionary Council. Miss Bennett was unani- 
mously chosen president. With her accustomed loyalty to 
the Church she subordinated her personal feelings and 
sought to rally the women of the Church to the changed 
organization. She sent this message to the women through- 
out the connection after this meeting adjourned: 

"As women of God, called and empowered to act on 
the General Conference Committee, none were unmind- 
ful of the difficulties the changes involved. No think- 
ing woman hugged to herself the delusion that the re- 
adjustment and consolidation could be made without 
sacrifice and pain to every member to whom the old 
way had made service a joyous blessing. 

"But the fullness of time for an advance movement 
had come, and devout, godly men and women, striving 
to know and do the will of the Father, could but read 
the signs of the times and go forward. To such 'the 
kingdom of God and his righteousness' must always be 
the goal of duty. And to such the guidance of the Holy 
Spirit is always unfailing. 

"Once again the great Head of the Church illumined 
and made plain the old paths, wherein man and woman 
were set to walk and work together, if they would do 
his perfect will, and fifteen members of the General 
Board of Missions were women — ten elected by the 
General Conference and five by virtue of the offices they 
fill. 

"Organic union of the woman's boards was not forced, 
but a loose consolidation of the two, forming a Mission- 
ary Council, with power to appropriate the money 
raised by the women and to develop missionary work 
among the women and children, in accordance with the 
policy of the Board, was a part of the plan. To have 
denied the Council these privileges and activities would 
have meant the ultimate dissolution of the woman's 
Church-wide organization." 

Of course there were difficulties in effecting changes in 
these time-honored institutions and confusion in furnishing 
regulations for the Council and for the other two socie- 



HER LIFE WORK 145 

ties in the event the Conference did not ratify the union. 
There were some who would have preferred a mandatory 
ruling concerning union; there were some who feared the 
prestige of one or the other organization would be sacri- 
ficed and were not timid in prognostication, which of course 
affected the morale so far as their influence went. Both 
societies feared loss of interest by reason of the inevitably 
shortened program of education in so large a body. Small 
debts in both departments stood as hindering blocks to 
others, while there were some who saw in this forward 
movement Miss Bennett's personal ambition to be presi- 
dent of all the woman's work of the Church. 

There was also genuine heartache among some who were 
so wedded to the glories of the past that the future, under 
this new program, held not a single ray of hope. Among 
these was Miss Mary Helm, Miss Bennett's "strong 
tower" of pioneer days. She foresaw the property of both 
the Woman's Boards passing into the hands of this new 
Board of Missions to be sold or disposed of at the will of 
the majority, and she could not forget there were three 
times as many men as women on the Board. She could 
only see the future loss of the woman's independence in 
this liaison with the general missionary work of the 
Church; she could not be comforted and continuously 
mourned: **Belle has sold her birthright." Miss Helm was 
not at the General Conference, and she gave a literal inter- 
pretation to the papers adopted by that body by which she 
saw Our Homes, the organ of the Woman's Board of Home 
Missions, abolished. Before the Executive Committees of 
the Woman's Board met she tendered her resignation and 
could not be induced to wait for the action of the women of 
the Church upon the whole matter. It would be impossible 
to magnify Miss Bennett's suffering over this unhappiness 
of so many who had built up this magnificent work. But 
10 



146 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

she was so perfectly assured the movement was right that 
she never wavered, and endured 

"Each rebuff 
That turned earth's smoothness rough — 
Each sting that bid nor sit, nor stand, but go !" 

On April 20, 191 1, at St. John's Church, St. Louis, Mo., 
the Woman's Missionary Council convened in its first an- 
nual meeting. Nearly a hundred members responded to 
roll call, and it was a season of tense nervous excitement. 
At no time in her full, eventful life was Miss Bennett a 
more perfect exponent of the promise, "In quietness and 
confidence shall be your strength," than she was as she rose 
in her gracious dignity to deliver this, her first message: 

"Gathered here to-day under a new name, as repre- 
sentatives of two organizations dear to the heart of 
every woman before me — organizations through which 
thousands of other women have labored with us for the 
uplift and Christianization of this land and those larger 
non-Christian lands where gross darkness covers the 
people — the shadow of a lingering sorrow falls on us. 

"Great and radical changes always manifest them- 
selves in something of a revolutionary form. Some 
things that seemed vital are torn away, leaving wounds 
and scars behind. Some things hard and unlovely 
thrust themselves in, unwelcome reminders of the ten- 
der grace of a day that is dead. 

"In the unexpected dissolution of our Woman's 
Boards and the readjustment of all of the missionary 
forces of the Church there could be no exception to this 
rule of change. The action was radical and far- 
reaching, and we naturally face the future with mingled 
feelings of hope and fear. 

"In the joy of fellowship and service with our Lord 
a larger life has come to each of us. We have had a 
world-wide vision of homes and lands where woman, 
created in the image of Almighty God and bom to 
hopeless superstition, accepts with blind fear a 'sphere' 
that narrows and degrades her life and that in more 
than half the world puts her on a level with the brute 
creation. We have seen tlie manhood and childhood 



HER LIFE WORK 147 

of these homes and these lands held in a relentless 
bondage by a dwarfed and weakened motherhood, and 
our own responsibility for the undoing of these wrongs 
burns like a fire in the bones. 

"Startled into a new conception of what the debase- 
ment of God's image in the womanhood of nations 
means, we have raised for ourselves a higher standard 
of justice, judgment, and righteousness, and to be made 
channels through which all for whom Christ died may 
know him and the power of his resurrection has be- 
come the desire and prayer of our lives. 

"And now we are here to counsel together for the 
first time concerning the work at home and abroad and 
to enter upon its administration under a new constitu- 
tion. 

"The law enacted by the last General Conference and 
given verbal expression in that constitution unites the 
three great Mission Boards and gives woman a right- 
ful place in this most important council of the Church. 

"To this body, henceforth to be known as the 
Woman's Missionary Council, is accorded the right to 
nominate four Secretaries and an Assistant Treasurer, 
to be elected quadrennially by this unified Board, these 
Secretaries to be coordinate in official action with the 
four men elected as Secretaries of the Board at the 
same time and place. 

"The Woman's Council is also empowered to present 
the names of ten additional women to be elected by the 
General Conference as managers of the unified board, 
thus giving the woman's societies a representation of 
fifteen in a body composed of thirty-nine elective and 
seventeen ex-officio members. 

"The property of the unified Boards, heretofore held 
in the name of the respective organizations financing 
and controlling it, is now to be held in the name of 
the Church to which we all belong and through which we 
all work. To spfeguard the institutions established and 
maintained by the women in the past and to emphasize 
the fact that the missionary organizations through 
which they have leavened the whole Church are to- 
day as necessary to its best and broadest life as they 
have ever been, the money raised by these societies must 
continue to be appropriated to the work hertofore es- 
tablished by them and hereafter inaugurated under the 
provisions of the union. 



148 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"I need not rehearse further the details of the terms 
of the union. You have them before you in the printed 
reports. They are not all we could have desired, but 
how could that be expected? Never before in the his- 
tory of th Church have women been admitted to mem- 
bership in any of its administrative or legislative coun- 
cils. Now, by a unanimous vote of its highest law- 
making body, they have been called upon to assume the 
responsibility of active participation in its most im- 
portant and sacred trust. Has any other Church in our 
land honored and dignified womanhood by a similar 
charge or one for which it has been more manifestly 
chosen and appointed of God? 

**The General Board of Missions needed the women. 
The women needed the larger outlook and the greater 
responsibility which a united Board alone could give, 
and the world needs a Christianity, a Church animated, 
cemented, and propelled by a membership united in 
council, united in purpose, and constrained by the great 
Spirit which filled the Son of God when he became 
flesh and dwelt among us." 

Mrs. W. J. Piggot, of Kentucky, draws this picture of 
the impression Miss Bennett created at this Council meet- 
ing: 

"For nearly two weeks she occupied the chair, pre- 
siding over the large assembly with an infinite tact, a 
calm judgment, and a spirit of fairness which com- 
mended itself alike to those who made history and to 
those who watched history being made. 

"Her constraining love, her unwavering faith, and her 
compelling personality were powerful factors in pro- 
ducing that blend of purposeful women in the Church 
who from that time laid aside personal heartburnings 
and entered with loyal enthusiasm into a union of forces 
for the building up of the kingdom of God on the 
earth. 

"Her powers of physical and mental endurance dur- 
ing the strain of continuous sessions were a source of 
wonder to her coworkers who knew her painstaking 
care for the detail of the work entrusted to her, and 
who saw her broad mental grasp of every situation. 
Great leader that she was — and she ranks with the 
greatest women leaders of the nation — she had a most 



HER LIFE WORK 141^ 

profound and tender regard for every individual mem- 
ber of the organization over which she presided. How- 
ever untried or inexperienced the member might be, 
her clear, penetrating eye saw the possibilities in the 
woman and she did her best to develop her powers. 

"She loved frankness and 'covenants openly arrived 
at' so much that she readily detected shams and veiled 
double purposes. These she rebuked and set aside in 
straightforward fashion as unworthy and out of sea- 
son. She so presided that parliamentary law Avas made 
a medium for getting things done. The law, not the 
individual, was made the servant." 

The greatest difficulty that Miss Bennett encountered in 
building up the v^oman's relation to the general work of the 
Board of Missions came through her jealousy for the au- 
tonomy of the woman's work. The general mission work 
of the Church had always been delegated by law to the 
official members of the Board, whereas much of the wom- 
an's work had been more democratically managed by in- 
cluding active standing committees to cooperate in govern- 
ment with the women officers. The new laws of the Board 
of Missions made no provision for this outside relation, 
and when the meaning of the constitution was submitted to 
unbiased judgment, it made the women secretaries and 
treasurer amenable to the Board and not the Council. 
The conflict of official relations with this dual interpretation 
of law was most painful and often embarrassing. As the 
chosen leader of the women, Miss Bennett unyieldingly held 
to a liberal interpretation favoring the women whose work 
and diligence secured the moneys that made possible the 
enterprises of the Woman's Missionary Council. By every 
token her understanding of democratic government and 
loyalty to the principles involved and her regard for the rank 
and file of the women demanded this course. 

Misunderstandings also led to the discontinuance of the 
two woman's missionary papers before the women were 
consulted, and a joint paper for all the missionary forces 



I50 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

of the Church was established. These papers were not 
only self-sustaining, but they were sources of revenue to the 
work of the women. There was distress also because some 
of the promoters of the united Board had expected there 
should be one treasury and that all properties should be 
transferred to the Board of Missions. But a wise adjust- 
ment of the management of its funds tided the new organi- 
zation with separate money accounts until the next Gen- 
eral Conference, when these difficulties were relieved. It 
was inevitable that those difficulties and the friction of re- 
adjustment would bear heavily upon Miss Bennett. Her 
sympathy with the disaffected women, her keen sense of 
responsibility for the ongoing of the King's business, and 
her loyalty to the woman's cause in the Board, with her 
ceaseless toil, made such inroads into her health that she 
was forced to seek rest and a change of climate for months. 
She was ever courageous and so keyed to full faith in the 
final triumph of the larger life of the Church that the world 
did not realize how she suffered. A paragraph from a letter 
she wrote when she was ill to the Secretary of the Woman's 
Home Department confides something of this agony. The 
letter is dated June 26, 19 12: 

"I know there are some women and many men who 
would gladly see me retired, but I have not thought 
they were those who love the home mission cause or 
the woman's cause. I have not felt I have suffered for 
the right, even in a small measure as He suffered and 
that too from his own kindred and own people, but I 
have suffered more than I have been willing to tell 
even you, to which my broken health testifies. But, 
dear friend, God has surely been with us while the 
cloud was above as when the pillar of fire led. I know 
he will save the world, even if we fall out of the ranks 
of his army, but I can never forget Paul's great state- 
ment : 'We are his workmanship, created in Christ 
Jesus for good work, which God afore prepared that 
we should walk in them.' " 



HER LIFE WORK 151 

By the sheer power of her own faith Miss Bennett en- 
couraged the women of the Church to faith in this union 
of missionary forces, despite the confusion of adjustments 
and readjustments. This inspiration was wrought, as Mrs. 
W. J. Piggott describes, through the power of her mag- 
netic personality: 

"She asked and expected much of her coworkers, 
sometimes making demands which they, conscious of 
limitations of time and ability, felt to be far beyond 
their power to deliver. While she paid the tribute to 
her followers of asking hard things, she encouraged 
so steadily and inspired so truly that she developed fine 
abilities in women by the sheer measure of her faith 
in them, and by her own gracious bearing she gave every 
task she laid upon her people the imprint of a signal 
honor and a high privilege. By her faith she stimulated 
in the individual the 'power to conquer cruel doubts 
and fears,' thus multiplying herself through newly de- 
veloped leadership many times throughout the Church." 

Because of the wisdom of her leadership the women of 
auxiliaries and Conference societies were ready for or- 
ganic union, with a prorated division of moneys to the home 
and foreign work, before the end of the quadrennium. The 
General Conference of 1914 granted the petition of the 
Woman's Missionary Council to safeguard the property 
rights of the women, and the concurrence in the continu- 
ance of a distinct woman's treasury helped relieve burdens 
incidental to the beginning of unification. 

To Miss Bennett the great business of evangelizing the 
world demanded the greatest skill and largest support the 
Church could secure. She deplored the fact that many, even 
Church people, saw this world-wide enterprise as a small, 
secondary affair. With her heart set on making the King's 
business the greatest business of the world, she sought 
to enlarge the working force of the Council and bring it to 
such eflSciency that large results were inevitable. This state- 



152 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

ment was her oft-repeated challenge when she pleaded for a 
larger home base: 

"I used to hear Dr. Lambuth say so often when he 
was in the office as General Secretary and had no as- 
sistant at all except young Mr. Cain, that he could see 
only too well how the children of this world are wiser 
in their day and generation than are the children of 
light, when he looked at a great business house dealing 
with the Orient and saw how it employed twenty-five, 
fifty, or even a hundred men to keep up with and ex- 
tend its work while we, a Church then of two million 
members, employed only two or three men and women !" 

At her insistence the secretarial force of the Council was 
increased and a splendid quality of missionary literature 
created. In the nearly twelve years in which Miss Bennett 
was president of the Woman's Missionary Council she saw 
the membership more than triple and the annual collections 
approach the million-dollar mark. The work in every field 
was strengthened and enlarged. New work was inaugurated 
in Africa, while the kindergarten and Bible woman's work 
in Japan, conducted in years past by the General Board, 
was taken over and greatly enlarged by the Council, thus 
making seven foreign mission fields served by the woman's 
organization. In the home field, Wesley Houses and 
Bethlehem Houses increased in number and usefulness, and 
plans for greatly enlarged city mission programs were de- 
veloped. New work in rural districts was begun, and the 
home work, already highly socialized, found larger fields of 
service through multiplied social-service programs. 

This account of the growth of the woman's work of the 
Church would be unfair and incomplete if it were assumed 
that the policies and their development were altogether 
Miss Bennett's work, regardless of the wise and loyal co- 
operation of the women who toiled tirelessly by her side. 
It was her unusual valuation of human personality and 
power of creating faith in these world ventures which en- 



HER LIFE WORK 153 

abled her to secure this loyalty and cooperation. By this 
adventurous faith in human values she brought into active 
work a host who otherwise might never have discovered 
themselves or risen to God-given tasks. Of course there 
are instances of mistaken judgment, but in her disappoint- 
ments the axiom, "The mean man doubts, the great- 
hearted is deceived," holds true. 

The formation of the Woman's Missionary Council 
forced much more secretarial duty upon the president than 
is usual in most women's organizations. Because of this 
there were some who said she was autocratic. It is true 
that "it takes something of the autocrat to make an effec- 
tive leader of the sort that seek accomplishment through 
group action," and she did speak with authority concerning 
the great business of the Church, for her conviction of the 
function of the Church was very clear. But she was taxed 
with leadership of many who were slow of heart and barren 
of vision, and there could be little wonder if, like Moses, on 
occasions she was tempted to "pound the rock." Her loyal- 
ty to movements and enterprises, carried sometimes by the 
majority over her desire, showed her broad willingness to 
cooperate where principle was not involved. As contrary to 
the spirit of the autocrat, those who were closest knew her 
to discount her own ability in recognition of others whom 
she considered better qualified for the work. She was 
dependent upon friends whose words oftentimes gave en- 
couragement that sent her forward when distrust of her 
own powers made her falter. She was not self-seeking, but 
diligently followed her only quest, that of "seeking to know 
God's will and to do it." 

It was a recognized policy with Miss Bennett that group 
leadership was democratic and the women who worked with 
and through the Conferences should share responsibility of 
administration of the work. She gives expression to this 
conviction in a letter, January 12, 1921, to Mrs. B. F. 



154 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Lewis, Jackson, Miss., when she urges the repeal of a Mis- 
sissippi Conference Society by-law which necessitated fre- 
quent changes of Conference officers: 

"I know that the education of our women on the great 
subject of missions is of prime importance and the at- 
tendance of missionary meetings, institutes, and confer- 
ences is one of the chief methods in which they receive 
instruction about our work; but the Council is a law- 
making body, a body in which hundreds of thousands 
of dollars are appropriated every year and the future of 
numbers of lives mapped out for them by a careful ap- 
pointment to the great mission fields of the world. For 
these purposes we need women of ability, women of 
experience, women with deep prayer life, and women 
who are willing to sacrifice the things of the world and 
say, as the great apostle did : 'This thing I do/ 

"By constant changes in the membership of the Coun- 
cil, we inevitably concentrate the work of the Council 
in the hands of a small group of people, for the most 
part salaried people, and thereby break down the great 
power of the democratization of the womanhood of the 
Church, which is one of the great elemental principles in 
government by the people. I am strongly in favor of a 
broadened commission form of government in Church 
and State. I believe that each of our secretaries should 
have a committee to consider with her, or with him, 
every new movement requiring money or life service, 
and I believe we will eventually come to this." 

In a letter to Mrs. George Call, of Texas, she utters the 
same conviction, giving as her reason that frequent changes 
in the Council members had created a practically new body, 
which of necessity had thrown the responsibility of ad- 
ministration upon the secretaries: 

"Do you realize that half, perhaps more than half, of 
the next Council will be new women? This leaves the 
work in the hands of a few old ones, largely, very large- 
ly, the office secretaries. I have struggled against this 
concentration of power for all these past years, as I 
know you will bear me witness, yet the odds seem con- 
tinuously against me. An open policy and every woman 



HER LIFE WORK 155 

a chance to know the work, the missionaries, the fields, 
the problems, the needs and a voice — intelligent voice — 
in advancing and improving the work is what I believe 
we should have, and I mean to keep on struggling for 
it." 

This excellent policy carried so large an educative in- 
fluence that she could vv^ith all honesty declare: "The 
Woman's Missionary Society is the best mobilized arm of 
the Church." But the important law of character whereby 
every great virtue is beset with attendant danger was made 
clear when Miss Bennett's overzeal for group manage- 
ment sometimes created difficult situations for the admin- 
istrative officers. Illustrative of these experiences was that 
which wrought complications in 1899, when the Parsonage 
Department was lifted out of the Executive Office and lo- 
cated with a Conference officer in New Orleans. Her quick 
recognition of such blunders, however, and loyal efforts 
to amend were so genuine that none held them against her, 
and often they seemed to create new bonds of sympathy. 

Another policy for which she stood throughout her long 
public service was the sharing of responsibility in matters 
of official action. When traveling for the work she always 
sought a companion among either the Conference officers 
or the Council members, that she might have another view- 
point from her own. This view she expressed to one of 
the Secretaries of the Home Department on November 29, 
1918: 

*T don't want to go to Phoenix, but if you were going 
alone I should not hesitate. You know that I have 
always felt that it was neither wise nor right for one 
secretary or one member of the Council to decide on 
important matters where finances were involved, and 
with every passing year I am more and more convinced 
that for the sake of the workers, as well as the work, 
we must not encourage or permit such action." 



156 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

She expresses the same thought in a letter to Miss How- 
ell under date of June 9, 1920: 

"I tried to get a room at Clifton Springs that I might 
return and meet you in New York for the meeting 
(the Interdenominational Committee on the Woman's 
Medical College at Shanghai), but everything was full 
and they were not sure they could do anything for me 
for several days. I wanted to be there in New York, 
for I never waver in my belief that the Master knew 
our human nature too well when he gave us that great 
lesson of sending out his disciples, two and two, to do 
the work he wanted done." 

Miss Bennett was convinced that responsibility of lead- 
ership involved money-getting for conduct of the work. 
She preferred small gifts from each member of the organi- 
zation to larger donations from the few, for the psychologi- 
cal effect upon the constituency. She continuously urged 
the law of Stezmrdship of time and money, that adequate 
support of the work might be assured by the regular mem- 
bership. At the same time she sought to interest people 
of means in missionary enterprises, and often her absorp- 
tion in this cause divine fascinated them and they gave gen- 
erously. There were gifts from the Deerings, the Gaul- 
buts, the O'Fallons, the Hillmans, Mrs. Keener, the Sam 
Jones family, members of her own household, and a host of 
others; also legacies from Mrs. Wilson, Mrs. Chenoweth, 
Major Toberman, Mrs. Follin and many, many more, be- 
cause she interested people in the things intO' which she was 
pouring her life. Her efforts to secure cooperation In the 
great task of financing the work of the kingdom is revealed 
in this first message to the Council: 

"Definite plans for enlarged offerings, annuities, and 
special gifts ought to be inaugurated at the first session 
of the Council. A standing committee to cooperate 
with the Department of Christian Stewardship should 
be appointed, whose duty it shall be to develop plans 



HER LIFE WORK 157 

by which every member of every congregation in South- 
ern Methodism should be approached in a personal way 
on the subject of a special offering for the evangeliza- 
tion of the world. Prayer groups might be formed 
whose sacred privilege it would be to make daily inter- 
cession for certain individuals intrusted with wealth, 
whose names are listed, and from whom liberal offerings 
or bequests may be solicited." 

The great celebration of the Centenary of Methodist 
Missions (1919-24) brought Miss Bennett new and very 
heavy responsibility. She was the one woman member of 
the Joint Commission of both Northern and Southern 
Methodism that planned the program. For two years be- 
fore the date of the celebration she was in constant service 
on various committees, and when the Churches and Con- 
ferences were holding special celebrations she was daily 
on the platform, pleading for the spiritual message of the 
Centenary and making clear the great need for larger forces 
of men and money. She mustered the Woman's Mission- 
ary Societies into this great forward march with stirring 
messages: 

"The Woman's Missionary Society' is the best mobi- 
lized arm of the Church, and you members of this 
Council are the chosen leaders of your Conference or- 
ganization. At your call twenty thousand trained 
women from the Adult and Young People's Auxiliaries 
could be ready in thirty days — to use that little dynamic 
sentence now so luminous with sacrificial love — ready to 
*go over the top' in every congregation. You are the 
women called of God to lead in this great awakening of 
his sleeping forces. In all of these congregations there 
is a 'No-Man's Land,' where ignorance, indifference, and 
spiritual coldness keep silent watch. These must be 
won to a study of God's Word, to a close loving knowl- 
edge of our divine Leader's life, and to a passionate de- 
sire to walk in his footsteps. There must be a great 
league of prayer, prevailing prayer, undergirded with 
that humble confession of sin and disobedience that 
only a broken heart and a contrite spirit can make. 



158 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"There must be a great new conception of our 
stewardship to God if we would have fellowship with 
him in service. Money is one of his all-powerful 
agencies, but without ourselves, our love, our time, it 
may be made a curse. All things are possible with 
God, but it is only through man, through the Church, 
that God can do the impossible things for humanity. 
As I see it, the greatest task of this Council and its 
splendid constituency for the coming year, perhaps for 
the entire quadrennium, is to invest all of its God-given 
resources in a united effort with the trained and selected 
forces of the Board of Missions to make the Church a 
living power through which the Lord Jesus Christ shall 
speedily win the world to himself." 

Again she urged hearty cooperation in the v^^ork which 
she believed would deepen the spiritual life of the Church: 

"The Centenary Movement has quickened the heart of 
the Church until, with an ever-increasing faith in its 
God-given purpose, is becoming a great organized force, 
moving forward to make the kingdoms of this world 
the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ. Men, women, 
and children at home and abroad are keeping step in 
the great procession. Let us see to it that no member 
of our Woman's Missionary Society, from the young- 
est babe in the cradle to the oldest member of the last 
adult auxiliary, fails to become a link in the chain of 
intercession which must girdle the globe with power 
from the throne of God. Let us from this meeting 
make the great principles from which the divine move- 
ment is based — the fellowship of intercession, steward- 
ship of time, talents, money, self, all we are and all 
we have — the study and practice of our entire mem- 
bership during the next four years. Let us pay our tithe 
to the Lord, remembering that all we have and are be- 
long to him, and then, rejoicing, let us bring the first 
fruits and the best of all we have as thank offerings 
and love offerings into his storehouse, that others may 
be glad and rejoice with us." 

In 1919 the Board of Missions appointed Miss Bennett 
and Mrs. Luke Johnson as women members of a Commis- 
sion of five sent out to inspect war-stricken Europe with a 



HER LIFE WORK 159 

view to establishing the Methodist Church where its spirit- 
ual message could help rebuild the nations. The beginning 
of work in Europe was made possible by the generous Cen- 
tenary gifts specifically directed to war work. This Cen- 
tenary work which fell into Miss Bennett's hands would 
have more than filled the life of an ordinary woman. 

In the twenty-six years of this leadership of organized 
woman's work of the Church, Miss Bennett endured the 
physical hardship of continuous work and the mental and 
nerve strain of responsibility with a record unequaled by 
any other woman in the history of the Church. Her faith- 
ful secretary gives this account of her days when at home: 

"After the morning lesson the mail was opened and 
read. Sometimes one letter alone required so much 
thought, and often prayer, that much of the morning 
would be given to it. When lunch was over, the work 
was again taken up; but when the little cuckoo clock 
on the wall struck two, she would invariably look up 
and say: 'Let's lie down for half an hour; I cannot 
hold my eyes open one second longer.' One half hour 
each day of rest was all that she could spare ! The room 
was always darkened, and while she stretched across the 
canopied bed, I rested on the couch. Never once was 
the little ivory clock forgotten as she propped it up be- 
side her that she might not oversleep! She sometimes 
did, when she had had a sleepless night, and then she 
chided me in a laughing way because I had not called 
her at the end of the half hour. She was an indefatiga- 
ble worker. Many times when I was so tired and worn 
I could scarcely sit up, she was keenly alert and reluc- 
tant to stop at six o'clock. She often remarked that 
she had kept up that pace for so many years she had 
become accustomed to it. Some of her nieces fre- 
quently telephoned to take us for a ride through the 
beautiful blue-grass country, just to get her away from 
her work awhile. She enjoyed getting out in the open; 
but if a letter of importance demanded her attention, 
she could not be persuaded to leave." 

The great physical tax of her railroad travel alone would 
have deterred a less devoted spirit, yet she spoke of it so 



i6o BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

lightly only those who were closest realized the sacrifice 
involved. She lived at Richmond, Ky., a full day's journey 
by rail from Nashville, Tenn., the headquarters of the 
Board. The railroad connections were not always good, 
which often necessitated travel in the slow day coach. She 
worked more satifactorily through committees and per- 
sonal interviews than by correspondence, and therefore she 
was called continuously to Nashville. Often the committee 
meetings lasted several days and involved most fatiguing 
labor. As the work increased in volume and importance 
she traveled all over the country, "enduring hardships as 
a good soldier" so cheerfully that only a few knew that to 
her it had been "granted in behalf of Christ not only to be- 
lieve on him but also to suffer in his behalf." 

For this sacrificial service she would never receive any 
monetary consideration. Indeed, in those first lean years 
in the Woman's Home Mission Board there were records 
of deficits when she and Mrs. Hargrove evened the ac- 
counts of the Board by their own personal gifts. It is true, 
appropriations were made for her travel and clerical help, 
but by her own insistence they meagerly measured to the 
cost of either. Her recompense was found in the joy of 
sacrificial service for God which bore fruit 

"In minds made better by her presence. 
In pulses stirred to generosity, 
In deeds of daring rectitude." 

The achievement of Miss Bennett in the established work 
of the Woman's Missionary Society was great, very great, 
but her largest contribution to the world and to the Church 
is the womanhood which she stimulated with a passion for 
the kingdom of God. This paragraph is a letter to the 
president of the Alabama Conference reveals her habit and 
method of quickening faith and zeal: 



HER LIFE WORK i6i 

"Dear friend, don't fail to remember when you come 
to hard places or feel that you have not measured up 
to your own standard that you are simply treading the 
same path that every other conscientious woman who 
has gone that way had trod before you. Bless your dear 
heart, you are trying to obey the Master, and he was a 
man of 'sorrows and acquainted with grief.' " 

Only an overburdened Secretary like Miss Mabel Howell 
could realize the cheer that a message like this could bring 
when the days are too short for current tasks : 

"I wish you could look back on the years behind us, 
when, in our woman's work, the four or five of us had 
to organize all over the Church, and then keep up the 
baby organizations, largely, from the central offices. 
I know only too well the meaning of His blessed words : 
'My power is made perfect in weakness.' Don't let me 
discourage you, dear; I am sure I won't, but you will 
never again, as long as you remain in the work, be free 
from heavy responsibility, nor cease to think of how 
much more you could do, if you were two persons, 
rather than one. I'm sure you will enjoy the old joke 
we so often tell on Mrs. Emily Allen Siler, who al- 
ways did her work so well and so beautifully. Bishop 
Candler complimented her by saying : 'The only trouble 
with you is, you ought to have been born twins.' " 

It v^as Miss Bennett's policy to keep the women of the 
Conferences informed concerning the developments of the 
different institutions, the work of the missionaries and 
deaconesses, through personal correspondence. Mrs. W. H. 
Pemberton, Little Rock, Ark., many years Corresponding 
Secretary of the Conference, expresses the inspiration this 
kindly consideration produced: "Her letters show her great 
heart and unflagging zeal in her Lord's work, also her 
humility with abiding faith in prayer. And was it not 
wonderful, her personal interest in every one of us who 
labored even in the least with her for the upbuilding of 
God's kingdom? I feel that she did inspire each one of 
II 



i62 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

us to live closer to God and be more diligent for the sal- 
vation of men." 

"She kept the individual woman and the group stirred 
with the conviction that the life of this age must be satu- 
rated with intercession," said another workfellow. Hear 
her as she challenges the new Woman's Missionary Coun- 
cil, in 191 1, to carry forward the work of the women of the 
past whose achievements came through prayer: 

"The greatest need of the Church of God to-day — our 
greatest need — is an absorbing spirit of prayer. The 
whole non-Christian world stands with wide-open doors 
before us in answer to those who have believed and 
prayed in the years gone by." 

Hear her plead with the women of the Church for that 
communion which alone equips for service: 

"Through the printed page and personal letter, from 
the platform and pew, in every Conference and auxil- 
iary we have rung out the words of hope and entreaty: 
'Double our membership, double our offerings, pray, 
work, give !' To these I would add : 'Double our prayer 
life, double our prayer life.' With humble dependence 
upon the Spirit of God and a steadfast determination 
to follow his leadership, we may go out from here call- 
ing upon all who are fellow workers with us to join in 
this larger and greater forward movement until it is 
the spirit and habit of the membership of the whole 
Church. I am asking no easy thing, but I am asking a 
vital thing. It has well been said : 'It is more difficult 
to pray for missions than to give to them.' Each and 
every one of us knows it is more difficult to pray for 
missions than to work for them. 'We can only really 
pray for missions if we habitually lead a life of prayer, 
and a life of prayer can only be led if we have entered 
into a life of communion with God.' It is ours to abide 
in this life and to come off more than conquerors in this 
time of the world's great need." 




"PROVIDENCE." THE BRICK CHURCH MISS 
BENNETT JOINED IN 1875 




THE "WATER MILL" WHERE MISS BENNETT 
DID HER FIRST MISSIONARY WORK 



CHAPTER IX 

A GOOD CITIZEN 

It is a notable fact that Miss Bennett's long public min- 
istry never robbed her of a sense of social and civic ob- 
ligation nor of the joy of personal service. She frequently 
carried a "Line a Day" record of her personal activities, 
but unfortunately these records were intermittent, never 
running longer than three months a year, often only a few 
weeks. A glance through these fragmentary entries dis- 
closes the almost daily visit to some old person, to the sick 
or dying or some one in distress. They tell of encouraging 
some young person by personal interest in a trousseau or 
a "dress for a party." They reveal her at work in the local 
church as "training the children for Week or Prayer Serv- 
ice," "organizing an Epworth League," "presiding at the 
Woman's Missionary Society," at work with her Sunday 
school class, and other special Church services. These rec- 
ords show that the demands upon her time for local secular 
committee work would have filled the life of a woman of 
ordinary spirit. There was the "committee to devise plans 
for helping the indigent of the town to help themselves," 
the city "Hospital Board," participation in State and 
County educational matters and numerous other affairs 
that help develop good citizenship. She gave herself to 
charity work, seeking to stabilize character and rehabili- 
tate families ; failing these she had courage to lift the hope- 
less offender out of his setting and give him a new start 
in a changed environment. Few of her fellow citizens 
knew when she lifted a little white girl out of a home, 
hopeless of reform, and sent her away to school where she 
might have Christian education. None of her associates 
knew of the nameless black boy she took out of the squalor 

(163) 



i64 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

of black bottom and gave a chance to make good. It was 
difficult to know if Miss Bennett was moved by divine 
impulse or by sheer human joy in these tender personal 
ministrations. 

One catches a picture of her faith in the "infinite pos- 
sibilities locked up in the human soul" in this incident re- 
lated by Mrs. Mary Bruce Alexander: 

"I stopped in Richmond one morning to see Miss 
Bennett, and as she greeted me she said: 'I know you 
have come in answer to prayer, and I want you to stay 
until to-morrow. There is an old woman dying of 
cancer over in the red-light district, and no one has been 
to see her or talk with her. I've been afraid to go alone.' 
Later in the day, after a prayer of preparation, we found 
the place; a beautiful girl opened the door for us. We 
talked, read the Scripture, and prayed; the old woman 
seemed truly glad to have our visit and expressed her- 
self as believing. During the prayers the young girl 
cried aloud, and Miss Bennett put her arm around her 
and begged her to go home with us, but she could not 
leave the sick woman. Miss Bennett made an appoint- 
ment with her to come to her house, but she did not 
come. Meanwhile Nancy died expressing faith in God, 
and months slipped by. A message came one day for 
Miss Bennett to visit a sick girl, who turned out to be 
the pretty girl we had seen at Nancy's. The physician 
said she had double pneumonia and would die unless 
removed to the hospital. The hospital was a private 
institution and would not receive fallen girls, but Miss 
Bennett's influence and money were powerful, and the 
girl was admitted, recovered, and returned to her family 
in another State." 

Miss Lucia Burnam recalls among the many experiences 
of Miss Bennett's personal ministry one which reveals her 
discernment and quick action: 

"While on the train once she overheard a conversa- 
tion between a girl of about fifteen years of age and a 
man much older than herself, which led her to believe 
that the girl was being persuaded into something wrong. 




MISS BELLE H. BENNETT WHEN SHE BEGAN PUBLIC 
SERVICE FOR THE WOMAN'S MISSIONARY SOCIETY 



HER LIFE WORK 165 

She called the girl to her and after a long conversation 
persuaded her to get off the train at Richmond with 
her. Miss Bennett took her to her home for the night 
and telephoned to the home town and parents of the 
girl, who came for her next morning." 

Miss Bennett radiated love and kindness and strength, 
and persons in trouble were attracted to her as by a mag- 
net. They went away re-created by her hope and courage. 
This letter, found among her papers, testifies to her power 
of infusing a new spirit into those who need help: 

"Little Rock, Ark., April 15, 1915. 
"Miss Bennett, City: Most noble lady, last night will 
be one of the brightest of my life. I had become de- 
spondent and was meditating as to whether a misspent 
life was worth any use to continue. I have seen all 
sides of life, drank deep of the cup of folly and vice. 
I last night was wandering aimlessly in the city and saw 
the ladies going to the church ; and, having heard of 
the conference of the good women of our God-blessed 
South, I went in and heard your more than helpful 
talk. And this morning the sun shines brighter and all 
nature seems different and I am a different man. And 
I expect to be there again this evening and as many times 
as I can. You will have in your crown on the last day 
one more star by coming to Little Rock. May the rest 
of your life be brighter and brighter and when you 
have crossed the mysterious river may you hear : 'Well 
done, thou good and faithful servant; enter into the 
rest I have prepared for you.' This is the prayer of 
one you will never know." 

Miss Bennett was an ardent advocate of the Federated 
Woman's Clubs of the country. She kept abreast of their 
high ethical movements wrought out in human betterment, 
legislative reforms, and law enforcement demands; she 
counted the educative and cultural values of their various 
sections of literature, music, art, and social diversions as 
making large contributions to the enrichment of modern 
life. Such national organizations as the Daughters of the 



i66 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

American Revolution and tlie Colonial Dames of America 
claimed her hearty support. She saw them fostering in 
the minds and hearts of posterity reverence for the virtues 
worthy of emulation of the great makers of this nation, 
through whom God gave to the world the "first political 
application of the Golden Rule embodied in the Declara- 
tion of Independence and wrought out in the Constitution." 
It was this interest in the human affairs of life which made 
secular pursuits sacred to her and enabled her to declare 
in her message to the Woman's Missionary Council in 191 3: 

"God's work is not done by the Church alone, and 
the last half century has seen the rise and development 
of interdenominational and undenominational organiza- 
tions, clubs, leagues, unions, and orders devoted to all 
forms of humanitarian and definite Christian work. 
Church women everywhere are hearing and answer- 
ing the appeal of these bodies; and if we cannot make 
it plain to the women of Southern Methodism that they 
can do as good work through the Woman's Mission- 
ary Society to advance the kingdom of God on earth 
as through any other channel, they will continue to 
join the ever-increasing ranks of those who belong to 
these non-Church societies.'* 

Miss Bennett kept abreast of every modern national and 
international movement, and she was an indefatigable read- 
er of the newspapers; it was a weary day when there were 
no newspapers available. Her attachment to the Louisville 
Courier-Journal was abiding, and her admiration of Henry 
Watterson's editorials and philippics unchanging even 
though they were frequently contrary to her own convic- 
tions. Her constant questions of the missionaries and dea- 
conesess were: "Do you get the daily newspapers at your 
Wesley House? Do you read them?" If a negative reply 
was given, she asked the third question: "How can you 
know what is going on in the world, and how can you help 
if you don't know?" Of her it may be said, as it was of 



HER LIFE WORK 167 

Julia Ward Howe: "This was her world, whose business 
was her business so long as she Hved in it." 

It is not possible to consider the multiplied activities into 
which Miss Bennett led the women of the South without in- 
cluding the call to social service where their voices and agi- 
tation and corrective measures bore fruit. She was among 
the first to sponsor control of child labor by enactment of 
prohibitory law, and from its inception she threw her com- 
pelling personality into the National Child Labor Commit- 
tee. As she held out the hand of the Church to reclaim and 
stabilize the character of the little unmarried mothers of the 
South in the Virginia Johnson Home and School in Dallas, 
she pointed out the larger field of fallen men and pleaded 
for a single standard of morality. She led the women into 
schools of inquiry concerning State laws on every moral 
issue. She pleaded with them to work for the abolition of 
legalized social evils that debauch and degrade man. That 
the women followed her gladly is shown by this paragraph 
in an address of 1908 at a meeting of the Woman's Board 
of Home Missions: 

"This body, in behalf of the splendid constituency 
which it represents, has a number of times declared 
itself in unmistakable terms with regard to the iniquity 
of child labor, the liquor traffic, legalized prostitution, 
the convict lease system, and other kindred evils. But 
a formal declaration of intention is only the beginning 
of the work. 'Law is our highest educator,' and every 
local auxiliary in Southern Methodism ought con- 
scientiously and courageously to promote the enactment 
and enforcement of righteous laws in both local and 
State government. One good law for the protection or 
betterment of the helpless, defective, or submerged 
classes, if faithfully enforced, will do more to change 
and ameliorate their condition than all the ellemosynary 
or philanthropic institutions that we could establish in 
a half century." 

Such paragraphs ran throughout the years in her mes- 



i68 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

sages to the women of the Board which culminated in the 
splendid social service program which has distinguished the 
work of Southern Methodist women. Miss Bennett's sen- 
sitiveness to personal responsibility for moral issues in her 
own community was shown when she sold property that 
netted her good income because she feared narcotics were 
being sold in it. There was no way of knowing the truth, 
but her tender conscience would not permit her to profit by 
the gains of the property. This experience antedated many 
years the agitation and enactment of the anti-narcotic laws 
of the government. 

Miss Bennett's magnetic personality drew to her side 
not only individuals who sought inspiration and courage for 
forward movements, but all manner of peoples and organi- 
zations honored her and sought counsel and advice from 
her. The one honor that pleased her most was this break- 
ing through time-honored tradition and conferring upon 
her, the first woman so honored in the history of the in- 
stitution, the degree of Doctor of Laws: 

"Shelbyville, Ky., June 3, 1916. 
"Miss Belle H. Bennett, Richmond, Ky. 

"Dear Miss Bennett: As Secretary of the Board of 
Education of Kentucky Wesleyan College, it becomes 
my duty and pleasure to notify you that the Board, at 
its session May 28, honored itself in conferring upon 
you the degree of LL.D. 

"The Board realized that it was doing the unusual 
thing, but the members of the Board had an equally 
clear conviction that the degree was being conferred 
upon a very unusual person. 

"With personal regards, I am, respectfully yours, 

J. P. Strother." 

Miss Bennett's work for the best and highest education 
of the young people in the South was not confined to the 
Church or to her missionary people. By pen and speech 
she cooperated with local and county schools of her own 



HER LIFE WORK 169 

beloved Madison County for better buildings and well pre- 
pared and better paid teachers. Her knowledge and skill 
were also called into requisition when the State moved in 
matters educational. Not six months before her death she 
related to her California friend, Mrs. Glide, who moved 
thence from Kentucky years before, the last enterprise to 
which she lent her aid: 

"I was compelled to hurry home from New York as 
we were on the verge of an exciting political election 
in Kentucky. Our educators and school people have 
been for the last four years realizing that we needed 
two amendments to our constitution on the subject of 
State education. The first was that our State Super- 
intendent of Education should be allowed to succeed 
himself, which he cannot do under the present law, 
and that his appointment should be either by the Gov- 
ernor, the Legislature, or a special Board of Educa- 
tion, appointed by the Legislature or the Governor. 
Three or four months ago Governor Morrow called 
over the telephone and asked me to go on that Board, 
which could only be nominal, until after the election 
took place; but he wanted to appoint it, selecting five 
Democrats and four Republicans that the State might 
realize that the effort was to take the educational work 
of the State out of politics. I didn't want to accept 
the place, but he urged it, and I finally consented. This 
has necessitated my giving some time to the effort to 
try to pass the amendments, although I felt from the 
beginning that the opposition was so great, from fear of 
an increase of taxes, and the propaganda had been 
made through the State for so short a time, they could 
not be passed at this election. The count is not yet 
quite completed, but we all feel very sure that they 
were defeated by a very big majority." 

Miss Bennett was persuaded that the moral teaching of 
the Bible is fundamental to personal and national character, 
and she could not be satisfied with the small proportion of 
the children of the United States who were reached through 
the Sunday schools of the land or who had religious instruc- 
tion in their homes. She believed that the book should be 



I70 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

taken to the childland of the country irrespective of creed. 
She was among the first of the nation who realized it 
could be done in connection with the secular schools. The 
following paragraph outlines her program: 

"In every urban community within the bounds of our 
Southern Methodist Church, wherever there are one or 
more public schools, primary or high schools, and one 
or more Protestant Churches, the cooperation of these 
schools should be secured, a Daily Bible School Com- 
mission formed, and an earnest, well-trained Christian 
teacher or teachers employed, who shall give from four 
to five hours of Bible study weekly to all children whose 
parents will allow them to receive it. I can but believe 
that no more important or patriotic movement has ever 
claimed the attention of our Christian people." 

The great World War wrung the heart of peace-loving 
people, but none suffered more than Miss Bennet did. She 
was sought for leadership by various national organizations 
in the work of mobilization and service as soon as the 
United States joined the Allies in their defense of world 
brotherhood. Her attitude concerning assuming official 
leadership herself is given in this excerpt from a letter of 
October i8, 19 17, to her friend, Mrs. L. H. Glide, of 
Berkeley, Calif.: 

"Scarcely a day passes that I do not have letters of 
appeal, almost of demand, from some of the number- 
less War Councils, urging that I devote myself to some 
or many of the war causes. Our people here at home, 
as all over the country, are working hard in 'the Red 
Cross work and, of course, I try to do my bit in various 
ways. 

"I left home on the 17th of September for New 
York to attend a meeting of the Committee of the 
Union Woman's College at Nanking, China, in which 
we became one of the cooperating Boards three years 
ago. 

"I remained in New York about a week, as I was a 
member of the War Council of the Young Woman's 
Christian Association, which was, also, to have a meet- 



HER LIFE WORK 171 

ing at that time. They offered to send me to France if 
I would take the job. I felt, however, that my place 
was here. The Master called us two thousand years 
ago to go with him into the trenches against the great 
hosts of heathenism, sin, and wickedness. I can't ask 
him to transfer me to another division of his great army 
just now, for I know only too well how much of the 
age-long suffering and terror still holds the dark lands 
in their grip." 

Miss Bennett felt that the place the Church should fill 
in this world crisis was so vital that she was unwilling to 
leave any part of its work undone. She felt its force 
should be strengthened and its opportunity for world serv- 
ice magnified. While she would hold no official rela- 
tion to the various war organizations, her influence through 
the South was great, as she urged the women of the Church 
and the missionary societies to throw full force of woman's 
power into the service by having part as individuals and 
joining in units of Red Cross work and working in Red 
Cross drives. She urged conservation of those values 
which could materially help in the upkeep of the armies. 
When the campaigns for Food Conservation, United War 
Work, Liberty and Victory bond sales, and other money- 
making movements were launched, she called upon the 
women to help and when possible to have part in the va- 
rious plans for National Defense Councils. 

Where there were cantonments in the South she pointed 
out to Methodist women the need of all services that 
mothers and sisters could render. The Hostess House in 
Texas where Methodist women led rejoiced her soul, and 
she gloried in the great number of Methodist women all 
over the country who filled men's places in the business 
world that they might be free for the senace. Genuine 
gratitude filled her heart when she knew the Wesley Com- 
munity Houses and the Bethlehem Houses had rendered na- 
tional service as centers for every form of home war work 



172 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

among foreign, Negro, and industrial communities. But her 
constant cry to Methodist womanhood was to keep up the 
morale of the Christian home and spiritual life of the 
Church that the nation might not suffer loss of its high- 
est values. She read in this world tragedy the birth pangs 
of a new sense of brotherhood and sought to fire the heart 
of the Church with a deeper passion for service. Her mes- 
sage to Southern women in 19 19 reads: 

"Through the most inhuman and cruel war the world 
has ever known, a war claiming its sacrifice and serv- 
ice from the best manhood and womanhood of all the 
nations of the earth, governments and peoples, races 
and religionists have caught a deeper meaning in that 
God-inspired thought expressed by the Anglo-Saxon 
tongue in the brief words : 'The brotherhood of man.' 

"The Every Man's Land of suffering, fear, and death 
opened wide its gates during the awful years of con- 
flict to a world multitude that could only wait and 
watch and pray for a like multitude that waited and 
watched and suffered, m camp and trenches, in hos- 
pital and prison, while millions died upon the battle 
fields. Men and nations came nearer and nearer to 
each other through the heart anguish of those days, and 
the Spirit of God found the waiting hosts a great train- 
ing school where souls could be taught to look beyond 
race and color into other souls and know that to the 
remotest parts of earth all mankind was one great 
brotherhood. There is no remission of sins without 
suffering; and through the gloom and darkness of those 
four long years of bloodshed Christianity has learned 
that the brotherhood of man can reach its full fruition 
only through a knowledge of the Fatherhood of that 
God who created man in his own image and the ac- 
ceptance of Jesus Christ the Elder Brother as Re- 
deemer and Savior of the world." 

Among the great national victories for which Miss Ben- 
nett had worked and prayed long years was the prohibition 
of the liquor traffic, which added the eighteenth amendment, 
in 19 19, to the Constitution of these United States. To 
the enforcement of this amendment she rallied the co- 



HER LIFE WORK 173 

operation of the constituency of the body she served as 
follows : 

"It has been well said that 'the prohibition of the 
liquor traffic is the greatest moral victory the people of 
America have ever won,' a victory that is even now, 
in the first year of its achievement, bearing glad tidings 
of joy to the uttermost parts of the earth, a joy that will 
increase and grow as other nations and peoples put away 
from among them the unclean thing that has so long 
cursed the world. 

"Our Federal government is making every effort to 
enforce the law; but here, as with the enforcement of 
every sumptuary law, a courageous, outspoken public 
opinion must sustain the appointed officers and demand 
the conviction of those who defy and break the law. 

"The women of this Council and the splendid con- 
stituency they represent will not, cannot fail to do 
their full duty in every State and Conference in which 
Southern Methodism has planted a house of worship or 
erected a family altar to have this law enforced." 

Her well-known stand on the principle of woman suffrage 
brought her opposition from recognized leaders of the 
Church throughout her long service at its altars. She knew 
she was right and had courage to press on and faith to 
believe right would prevail, although nearly a century 
of propaganda, prayer, and struggle was back of the 
suffrage movement. It was her high privilege to realize 
her vision and see this righteous measure carried in 1920, 
when the nineteenth amendment to the Constitution of the 
United States declared the enfranchisement of the women 
of the land. The enactment of this law was a religious 
victory she declared in her last address but one to the 
Woman's Missionary Council. 

For all of these National issues she toiled in faith, and 
her reward is written in terms of accomplishment. Rarely 
does it fall to man's lot to see his visions come true as was 
granted to Belle H. Bennett. 



CHAPTER X 

THE APPEAL OF FOREIGN MISSIONS 

When the Woman's Missionary Council emerged from 
the two Woman's Boards of the Church, the work of the 
Foreign Department was facing a crisis demanding large 
vision and executive skill. In the thirty-two years of the 
Woman's Foreign Missionary Society's existence, educa- 
tional and evangelistic enterprises had been launched in 
five foreign nations despite the limited number of Church 
women who constituted its human source of revenue. Of a 
total membership of 99,626, only 66,204 were adults; the 
children and young people aggregated 33,422. Because of 
the magnificent growth of the work and its ever increas- 
ing ramifications, demands for maintenance alone exceed- 
ed the collections, which averaged two dollars and fifty cents 
per member. Larger buildings to house the work already 
established were needed in each field, while the change of 
location of McTyeire Institute in Shanghai, China, was 
imperative. In Mexico City a school of three hundred and 
fifty students was hopelessly cramped in a "hired house" 
of forty rooms. At Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, all forward 
progress was handicapped because of the inability to "hire" 
consecutively a house adapted to a large school program 
for Brazilian Methodists. Korea and Cuba were also pre- 
senting urgent needs that only money could supply. These 
were some of the outstanding demands of the foreign fields 
when Miss Bennett became President of the Woman's Mis- 
sionary Council. It sent her in earnest quest to know God's 
will as to what he would have her do as leader of the 
women, and for guidance in activities which would begin 
to answer some of these Macedonian calls. 
(174) 



HER LIFE WORK 175 

A larger source of revenue had to be secured. Only one- 
tenth of the women of the Church stood back of the or- 
ganization; the nine-tenths must be induced to join the mis- 
sionary societies. Immediately she raised the slogan, "In- 
crease your membership," and the women caught the cry. 
At this time the two woman's societies were ony federated ; 
they were not organically united, but both departments of 
the Council earnestly pressed the plea for more members 
and more workers. Miss Bennett was convinced that if 
the faith of the women could be sprung to demand a mil- 
lion dollars, it could be raised within a year. Literature 
was created and sent through the membership, and ear- 
nest pleas for liberality were launched. Unfortunately the 
Church had not yet adjusted itself to the reorganization of 
the woman's work, and in some quarters confusion con- 
cerning suggested per capita amounts to be raised frus- 
trated this first great call of the new Council. The fullness 
of time for this forward movement had not yet arrived. 
Miss Bennett's faith and purpose did not waver notwith- 
standing the disappointment in this venture. A remark- 
able quality of Miss Bennett's leadership was her contin- 
uous forward look no matter how great her disappoint- 
ment. She lost no momentum by repinings or unprofitable 
regrets. When her plans failed, mistakes were made or her 
own actions met with criticisms, she forgot them and 
pressed forward to other tasks. 

Her statesmanship was apparent when she and the 
Foreign Secretary authorized the change of location of 
McTyeire Institute in Shanghai, China, though the condi- 
tions of the treasury seemed to forbid. The business sec- 
tion of the city was encroaching upon the property, and the 
move seemed a matter of business sagacity. Promises of 
local Chinese made initial steps possible, and the faith Miss 
Bennett inspired in the women of the Council accomplished 
the rest. 



176 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Again Miss Bennett's statesmanship was demonstrated 
when she led the women to realize that the building of a 
woman's college at Rio de Janeiro was the most pressing 
demand before the Council and first to be answered. It 
took the courage of conviction to persuade the women of 
the Council to rally to this proposition, for the cost of 
property far exceeded that of any school enterprised in 
the past and, viewed from the financial side of the organi- 
zation at that time, was prohibitive. The condition of the 
treasury of the Foreign Department and the fact that the 
membership at large had not been consulted developed op- 
position in the Board of Missions, and the women were 
urged to postpone action until at least one hundred thou- 
sand dollars had been collected for the enterprise. Miss 
Bennett would not have been human had she not suffered at 
this delay when she believed this school vital to the work 
of the Protestant Church in a great republic of fifteen 
million people. With this conviction she continued to press 
the matter upon the women of the Church until the money 
w^as collected. At the request of the Council Miss Bermett 
visited Brazil to investigate the woman's work and select 
the site for this school at Rio. Her letter of October, 19 13, 
to Mrs. Waller Bennett pictures the labor and responsibility 
involved: 

"For years we have had a girls' school in Rio but no 
property of our own, and it has been impossible to se- 
cure permanent rented quarters. Our chief and most 
difficult business in South America is housing this 
school. In company with Miss Glenn and Miss Perkin- 
son, principal of the school, we have been property 
hunting night and day for two weeks in a very real 
and exhausting way in the day time and at night in our 
dreams. Property is as high-priced here as in New 
York or Chicago, yet we must have good property and 
in the best residential section of the city. None of the 
old mansion houses are suitable for school buildings, 
yet they are too good to buy and pull down. We have 



HER LIFE WORK 177 

found one place that we may possibly be able to get 
at $217,000, and have written back to the Board at 
Nashville an elaborate description of the same asking 
directions as to buying. It belongs to three heirs and 
has a good large dwelling on it, but the price is stag- 
gering. It is in a fine location though not on the Bay 
front, but the house now on it would be only the be- 
ginning of a school plant. We asked for a cable mes- 
sage in reply to our letter to the Board, but our letters 
will not reach Nashville before the first of November. 
We are still house hunting, for neither of us feels willing 
to go home until this old school problem is settled. The 
Northern Methodists retired from this territory in our 
favor, and we feel that we have neglected the opportu- 
nity. We have something more than one hundred thou- 
sand dollars for the purchase, but to buy the property 
about which we have written means an additional 
$200,000 before the plant is completed and equipped. 
We certainly do feel the responsibility, yet this is large- 
ly why we came out." 

Beautiful property vi^as finally purchased after Miss Ben- 
nett's return to the United States and the school opened 
its doors March, 1921. In high appreciation of the serv- 
ice of the Council President whose zeal hastened its es- 
tablishment it bears the name Bennett College. 

Something of the appeal of the woman's work for women 
in Brazil is set forth in her description of laying the founda- 
tions for the new school building at Ribeirao Preto: 

"Ribeirao Preto is the capital of the great coffee- 
growing section and is called the 'coffeepot' of the 
world. We have had the location for a school build- 
ing here for some years, almost an entire square in the 
best part of the city. It has trebled in value since we 
bought it. Miss Gibson and I spent days and nights 
with the missionaries over the building plans, which I 
had with me, and on Sunday night before we left 
marched with our little congregation of Methodists (the 
Brazilian presiding elder and the American pastor), 
after services at the church, to the lot, and under the 
starlight, with the Southern Cross above us, dedicated 
the ground and authorized the erection of a new $50,000 
12 



178 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

building. The proceeding was very spectacular, but the 
people are so accustomed to this, from the Church of 
Rome, they like it and want it. The old members 
especially, all of whom we had to tell briefly of the 
early days and their hard struggles, were very happy 
over the occasion. 

"We have a very prominent railroad man as a lead- 
ing member of our Church at this place. His father 
was an Englishman and his mother a Brazilian, and it 
was a real pleasure to see how this man enjoyed our 
visit to the place. He couldn't do enough for us. He 
has a beautiful home, but his wife, a Brazilian woman 
educated in England, was in Rio on a visit. He kept 
us supplied with flowers, took most of his meals with 
us, studied and corrected the plans with us (he is a 
civil engineer), and finally sent us back as far as Cam- 
pinos in his private car." 

This visit to Brazil was the first Miss Bennett made to 
the foreignn fields where Southern Methodist women were 
at work. It opened her eyes to the dearth of literature for 
spiritual cultivation in countries new to evangelistic 
Churches. At the next meeting of the Council she made 
this appeal for the creation of Christian literature, which 
bore fruit in the immediate appropriation of moneys for 
this purpose for Brazil and other fields: 

"We can no longer neglect or fail to give our con- 
verts and adherents on the foreign mission fields some 
well-selected Christian literature. The meager supply 
for our people in the great Portuguese-speaking republic 
of Brazil is a genuine reproach to us. Other fields are 
equally destitute. One book each year, translated and 
put within the reach of the thousands of boys and girls 
who attend the schools of the Southern Methodist Mis- 
sions, would be an immeasurable blessing, reaching out 
to homes and hearts the present working force cannot 
touch. Surely we owe this to the women and men who 
are working with us in the regions byond." 

For more than twenty years the physical and spiritual 
conditions of the peoples of Africa in the Congo valley 



HER LIFE WORK 179 

burdened Miss Bennett's heart. Long she prayed for them ; 
she talked much about the shame of the twentieth century 
world civilization that sat in apathy and lifted not a hand 
to ease their burdens or flood them with Truth that should 
make them free from this bondage of ignorance and suf- 
fering. When Bishop Lambuth went to the Belgian Congo 
in 19 10, she followed him with a sympathy and assurance 
of intercession no others outside his own family could have 
given. When he and Prof. J. W. Gilbert wrote her con- 
cerning their travels and observations of the suffering 
womanhood of Africa, her heart was melted within her. 
One of Bishop Lambuth's strongest appeals to her was 
written December 24, 191 1, and wound up with this heart 
cry: 

"How long •will it be before the spell which Satan has 
woven about these poor people shall be broken? For 
centuries they have been in bondage to fear. It would 
seem as though no one had the courage to break through 
and deliver from that which has bowed them to the 
earth and left them helpless and without hope. It was 
only this morning a native said to me : 'How is it that 
the Belgian government sent officers to control the 
country and the Roman Catholic priests came to open 
missions and your Church waited so long to send mis- 
sionaries when you say the gospel you bring teaches that 
Jesus and not Mary is the only way to Nzambe?' — 
their word for God. What could I say ? Surely it were 
high time we were giving some proof of our sincerity 
in saying we are working under a commission to preach 
the gospel to every creature. I appeal to the women 
of the South to do for the women of Africa what is 
being done for those who have been more favored in 
other mission fields. I have now had an opportunity to 
probe this 'open -sore' to the depths after twenty years 
in the Orient and many visits to Cuba, Mexico, and 
Brazil, and I unhesitatingly assert this is the place of 
flie world's greatest need. If Christian Missions means 
to us what we have always defined such an evangel to 
be fpom the platform and from the press, then we will 
do what the Moravians have ever done — find out where 



i8o BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

the need is greatest and go where we are needed most. 
You may recall the fact of my having an interview 
with Henry M. Stanley just twenty years ago. It was 
soon after his rescue of Emin Pasha. He expressed 
himself vigorously in favor of missionaries from the 
Southern States, saying they understood the Negro 
better than any other people, and added the significant 
statement that we had no time to lose. I interpret the 
last in the light of my present visit as referring to the 
Moslem advance, the Roman Catholic occupation in 
Uganda and later in the Congo valley, and last but not 
least the wonderful respect with which the Negro holds 
the white man." 

When the Council was in session in Washington in 
April, 19 1 2, Miss Bennett told of this greatest need of the 
world and in deep humility added the story of her own call 
to serve Africa in her home town and God's wonderful 
blessing upon her own heart and her colored friends in 
her Bible study class. As she concluded her speech a note 
was handed her which read: "Miss Bennett, I am willing 
to start work in Africa with five thousand dollars. 
(Signed) L. H. Glide." 

Later Miss Bennett made the announcement of the gift, 
and the following resolution, signed by fifteen persons, was 
offered and unanimously adopted: 

"Resolved, That the Woman's Missionary Council in 
annual session at Washington, D. C, send a communica- 
tion to the Board of Missions in its annual session, May 
I, assuring it that if it decided to open work in Africa 
the women will cooperate." 

The Board of Missions did accept the challenge and 
planned to enter the Belgian Congo, but because of the 
cruel World War it was impossible for the missionaries to 
sail the high seas until August, 191 7, and even at that date 
the responsibility of the journey was left entirely with them. 
The Foreign Secretary's account of their heroism states: 



HER LIFE WORK i8i 

"With firm faith and trust in God, feeling secure in his 
protection, they chose to answer his call to Africa and un- 
falteringly undertook the voyage in the face of the dangers 
of travel at this time, knowing that only a few weeks be- 
fore a boat had been lost on a mine in Cape Town Harbor, 
carrying down with it a number of missionaries." Miss 
Bennett lived to rejoice in the beginning of a Girls' Home, 
a Day School, and a Hospital at Wembo Nyama, and reg- 
ular evangelistic service of the Church in the outlying vil- 
lages. 

One of Miss Bennett's statesmanlike accomplishments 
was bringing the women of the Church into cooperation 
with the plan for redistributing the evangelical work in 
Mexico. Since 1872 twelve missionary boards had prose- 
cuted Protestant Missions in fifteen of the thirty states of 
Mexico. When the revolution of 19 10 caused the United 
States government to recall its citizens from the country, the 
Mission Boards were forced to suspend operations until 
normalcy might be established. In this interim the Secre- 
taries and representatives of the various Boards gathered 
at Cincinnati to study scientifically the results of the forty 
years of missionary endeavor in Mexico. It was made 
clear that denominations had overlapped in fifteen states, 
while by failure of comity and cooperation there were fif- 
teen others in which little or no evangelistic work had been 
done. Again, it revealed great unoccupied fields among 
the five million Indians for whom neither the Roman Cath- 
olic nor Protestant Churches were working. It was de- 
termined that, when peace should be established and the 
missionaries returned, each Church should be allotted 
territory as obtains in the Orient and other mission fields. 
Agreements concerning the redistribution were so made that 
every Stale should have Protestant missions; and plans were 
perfected for interchange, purchase, and sale of properties 
conditioned upon concurrence of the Boards at work in 



i82 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Mexico. Miss Bennett's sympathetic support of these 
measures was most valuable in the initial meetings. 

The work of securing the cooperation of her own Church 
was far more difficult than had been expected. Some of 
the older missionaries of Mexico could not tolerate the 
thought of separations from people won by their earnest 
endeavors, and they believed an exchange of any proper- 
ties would entail sacrifice. Denominational adherence 
seemed destroyed by the uniform name, Evangelical Church 
of Mexico followed by Methodist Branch in brackets ; they 
could not believe it carried a stronger Protestant appeal 
than the mere denominational title. Three of the bishops 
of the Church also were vigorous in their opposition, and 
there was long and earnest debate concerning the Southern 
Methodist Church's participation in the plan of redistribu- 
tion and acceptance of the territory allotted. Miss Ben- 
nett's splendid personality and clear vision of the wisdom 
of the course added greatly to the final concurrence of the 
General Conference, in 191 8, in the plan. 

When civil strife was sufficiently adjusted for normal 
life to be resumed in Mexico, the Woman's Missionary 
Council returned her missionaries to the section of the 
country allotted to the Southern Methodist Church. Mex- 
ico loomed large in Miss Bennett's already overfull life 
when the Council began reconstructing programs of work, 
repairing property injured by devastation of war, and plan- 
ning for new buildings made possible by the Centenary 
gift. A definite policy of normal school work to meet 
the opportunities of the new day in Mexico; the introduc- 
tion of new work along lines of social evangelism in plants 
to be known as Centro Cristianos; distinctive women's 
evangelistic work through the Volunteer movement, with 
specific preparation in Bible study and the establishment 
of a Conference Woman's Missionary Society in the Mex- 
ican Church as member of the Woman's Missionary Coun- 



HER LIFE WORK 183 

cil, are easily traced to Miss Bennett's splendid guidance. 
Ten years of the twelve in which she was President of the 
Woman's Missionary Council, Mexico was in civil strife, 
and the suspended missionary activities for a number of 
years prevented her visiting the work, but her regard for 
Latin America and high appreciation of the work accom- 
plished in Mexico created a strong appeal to her sym- 
pathy for the country. She saw in the earnest zeal of the 
reconstructed Church and the evangelistic spirit of the 
young women great promise of a future of gospel power 
in Mexico. 

The organization of the Woman's Missionary Society 
by native converts in all the mission fields where the Coun- 
cil maintains work was a natural and happy development 
of their spiritual life. Only as their new faith discovered 
its relation to life could there be growth, and to Miss Ben- 
nett it was high joy to turn this devotion into constructive 
channels. The official members of these young missionary 
societies in foreign countries were not mere names on the 
roster of the Woman's Missionary Council to her, but real 
personalities who could realize the highest idealism. For 
this reason she urged that whenever possible some repre- 
sentative should attend the Council meetings, that they 
might catch the glow of enthusiasm which radiates from 
gatherings of this character. Every event that gave hope of 
a richer, larger womanhood to the world was welcomed as 
a potential promise of what woman may become in the 
world's ongoing. The fostering of this missionary spirit 
in the women converts of other nations* was twofold in its 
appeal to her. That they might hasten the kingdom of God 
was first and always the cause of her burning zeal, but that 
woman might come to her rightful place In the world's his- 
tory was no less her ever-present desire. 

At the annual meeting of the Council in 19 15, at Little 



1 84 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Rock, the Board of Missions made overtures to the women 
to take over the Bible Woman's Work and Kindergarten 
Training School in Japan, which had been the work of 
Mrs. J. W. Lambuth. Because of insufficient financial sup- 
port it had not expanded as was desired. Miss Bennett 
most earnestly advocated its acceptance, even though it 
meant entering a new mission field, for the women had not 
conducted work in Japan. By this time the faith of Meth- 
odist womanhood in Miss Bennett's visions and in her 
powers of generalship was so complete that they promptly 
voted to enter Japan: 

"We recommend: i. That the Woman's Missionary 
Council assume the support of woman's evangelistic work 
in Japan on condition that the Board of Missions continue 
its usual appropriation/ to that field. 2. That the Council 
appoint two new missionaries to that field." 

Within five years Miss Bennett had led Southern Meth- 
odist women into two new mission fields, and like the 
"widow's cruse of oil" the finances w'ere never taxed be- 
yond the power of the treasury — the money multiplied as 
there was need. The following paragraph of a letter to 
Miss Esther Case, Secretary of the Council's work in Latin 
America, dated November 8, 192 1, reveals her eye turned 
to other small nations where she longed to present the 
"better hope through which we draw nigh unto God": 

"I saw a good deal of Mr. Sam Inman while we were 
at Mohonk, and he is most enthusiastic about the prog- 
ress of Protestant Christianity, in Mexico especially, 
and the other parts of South America. He and I are 
both very anxious for our Boards to go into Central 
America. I am truly sorry that I have not talked with 
Bishop Cannon on this subject now that he will have 
a new field. I will wait for the next Bishop and see if 
he happens to be a man who can really take hold of 
either old or new situations." 

Miss Bennett's skill in locating mission institutions was 



HER LIFE WORK 185 

recognized by all who knew her methods or policies. Her 
Lord's work was too great to be located on side streets, 
and the light it must shed forth was far too necessary to 
be 'hidden under a bushel,* When the Woman's Mission- 
ary Council was planting a new and larger school than il 
had maintained in Cuba she gave utterance to her convic- 
tion concerning strategic locations in a communication ad- 
dressed to Miss Case, July 14, 1919: 

"Now, dear Secretary, may I say to you concerning 
Havana, as I have said about Rio and Shanghai, let 
us make a real effort to take these cities for our Lord 
Jesus Christ? Methodism has always retreated from the 
cities. Our big schools and our best missions are gen- 
erally located in villages, towns, or even hamlets. Now 
in these three cities into which we are entering with 
largely increased force, let us establish a good big Cen- 
tral School and as soon as we can, open half a dozen 
or more strong day school feeders in the same city to 
the Central School. Let us also organize a League of 
Prayer, a special League, I mean, of those women that 
we know are praying women and in communion with 
God, for the outpouring of his Spirit, upon these insti- 
tutions and these cities, and we can and will claim and 
take them for our Lord." 

Miss Bennett's regard for the various mission fields was 
impartial, but when there were great crises in any nation 
it was but natural that she should give earnest, absorbing 
attention to that one. This was true when the great, hoary 
Manchu Dynasty was overthrown and China came out to 
the world in the clothing and coloring of a new democratic 
republic. It was a wonderful day in the history of nations, 
and it was a grave responsibility and high privilege to be 
the leader of the forces that carried that fundamental power 
to that great people which alone could make them free, and 
equal and happy. Miss Bennett's annual message, April, 
1912, to the first meeting of the Council after this historic 
event, sounds this bugle call to the Church of God: 



i86 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"In China Protestant Christianity faces the most tre- 
mendous problem and the most tremendous opportunity 
it has ever known. An Oriental people with an ancient 
and fixed civilization, an autocratic government, and an 
immense illiterate population in bondage to pagan re- 
ligions have suddenly awakened to their backward place 
in the family of the nations and have adopted a re- 
publican form of government. With a strong, progres- 
sive, and patriotic leadership keenly alive to the power, 
possibilities, and needs of the people, China is eagerly 
seeking Western learning and Western forms of prog- 
ress as they exist in lands and among people dominated 
and leavened by the Christian religion. 

"We rejoice in the belief that missionary work, mis- 
sionary schools, missionary teaching and influence in all 
of their manifold forms have been, under God, the 
greatest factor in producing this rebirth of a nation. 
But the question comes to us now as a missionary Coun- 
cil : What more can we do? What larger part can we 
take in the reformation and Christianization of this 
great people? Religious freedom has been declared 
through the new constitution, and a nation-wide public 
school system is being developed. The Minister of Edu- 
cation has issued a decree that 'free education is to be 
provided throughout China for all children, girls as 
well as boys, up to ten years of age,' and it is estimated 
that one million schools will be required to accommo- 
date these children of school age. Where will China 
get her teaching force? Will Southern Methodism 
furnish her proportion of really Christian teachers, or 
will she turn aside from this open door and leave non- 
Christian Japan to form the next generation of Chinese 
thought and character? 

"Our missionaries have been pleading for day schools 
and women evangelists who can go into the country vil- 
lages or wherever groups of women may be gathered 
together and teach the 'all things whatsoever I have 
commanded you.' China's modernization demands the 
'all things' of Christ, or her end may be worse than her 
beginning. We must do our part. We must respond 
now ! Now is the time of our greatest opportunity. 
Other nations may wait. China will not, cannot wait." 

That Miss Bennett "dwelt beside the very springs of 
life" cannot be questioned, for she was ever in advance of 



HER LIFE WORK 187 

the constituency of the Woman's Missionary Council, not 
only with vision but with plans for making real that which 
came to her heart and mind through faith. New China's 
demand for schools and millions of teachers had scarcely 
taken hold of the thought of the Western world when she 
was praying and planning for a teacher-training school in 
China, where the best pedagogical preparation built upon the 
principles of Christ might be given. Day and night she 
dreamed of this large thing. In 1916 she went to the 
Orient in company with the Foreign Secretary of the Coun- 
cil, with the purpose of making this Christian Normal 
School a feature of the w^oman's work in China. The 
Laura Haygood School at Soochow, named for the beloved 
missionary who was one of Georgia's greatest teachers be- 
fore going to China, furnished the best opportunities for 
inaugurating her plans. There were certain circumstances 
attendant upon the introduction of this normal feature in 
connection with this institution, which but for Miss Ben- 
nett's habit of looking forward would have marred her joy 
in bringing her dream into reality. Time has proved the 
wisdom of this selection; for notwithstanding the confusion 
incident to repeated revolutions and civil strife in this new 
republic, the Laura Haygood Normal School continues its 
work of making Christian teachers. 

Miss Bennett's great faith in the power of Christian edu- 
cation was strengthened as she met the men and women who 
had their training in the mission schools of China, Japan, 
and Korea. The need of industrial and trade schools, for 
Korea especially, pressed heavily upon her sympathies. 
She gave authorization for such an institution at Wonsan 
by appointing a committee to study the situation and work 
out details for its conduct. Her belief in the need of a good 
medical college for women in China was confirmed by 
what she saw in that great country, and she returned to 
America with fixed determination that such an institution 



i88 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

should become the Christian Western woman's contribution 
to the relief of Eastern woman's human needs. The Bible 
woman's work of the Orient was second to none in its per- 
sonal presentation of the Christ, but it was manifest to her 
that better preparation must be given these evangels of love. 
"In material things Japan is making a new land of Korea," 
she declared, "and the Christian forces must keep well 
abreast of this material progress." The Lambuth Memorial 
Bible Woman's School at Kobe, Japan, appealed to her be- 
cause of its noble work of the past, and she returned home 
to plead for proper housing of that institution. At Oita 
the Kindergarten Training School was strengthened and 
promised better facilities. She was persuaded that the 
Christian settlement, like the Wesley Houses in the home 
field, with their varied forms of Christian social activities, 
was needed in the great Oriental cities, where native and 
foreign Christians may more perfectly share the life of the 
community. Her plea for the establishment of these evan- 
gelistic centers was thus expressed at the Council meeting 
in 1917: 

"The Orient is wide open to the gospel of our Lord 
Jesus Christ ; in China, Korea, and Japan every method 
of approach to the people can be made effective that has 
proved effective in our own land. Community work, 
with all the activities known to our Christian social serv- 
ice workers, is needed in the cities and towns of those 
countries ; and we must meet the opportunity with en- 
larged faith and more effectual prayer. We can do it. 
God is always waiting and ready if we are obedient and 
willing." 

Miss Bennett lived to realize her dream of this great 
evangelistic center in Seoul and to know that in Japan and 
China God was using Christian settlements to enrich the 
characters of the people with whom they touched life. 

A policy Miss Bennett advocated as fundamental to 
character development was throwing the support of the 



HER LIFE WORK 189 

Church in mission fields upon the converts at as early a 
date as possible. She made it her principal theme at meet- 
ings in Brazil and in the Orient, especially in the gatherings 
of the women of the missions. She cautioned the Board of 
Missions and the Woman's Missionary Council not to par- 
alyze the zeal of converts and students by paying for every- 
thing with foreign money. 

Miss Bennett's desire for a change in the educational 
policy of the woman's work, which looked forward to the 
building of Christian families on mission fields, was as 
broad as it was basic. She gives expression to this con- 
viction in her plea to the women in 19 16: 

"One of the needs looming larger and larger before 
us on the foreign field during the past decade has been 
the establishment and support of more intermediate and 
high schools for hoys. The organization of Woman's 
Missionary Societies, at a time when their efforts were 
restricted to work among women and children, led to 
a world-encircling chain of schools for girls and small 
children. This has increased until the primary and 
grammar school for girls greatly outnumber the same 
class of Christian schools for boys. It was stated at the 
Congress on Christian Work in Latin America by Dr. 
Cook, the Foreign Secretary of our Board, that in three 
Latin countries where our Church has work there are 
five schools for girls to one for boys, approximately 
seven girls in school to one boy, and ten dollars to one 
in favor of girls' schools. 

"It has been the policy of our woman's work from the 
beginning to admit boys up to twelve years of age into 
the schools under its supervision; but often this has not 
been possible ; generally it has not been advisable. 

"Now, if the Christian family is the unit of Christian 
civilization, the Mission Boards are failing in a plain and 
vital duty. Marriage is practically obligatory, and at an 
early age, for all girls in non-Christian lands. A few 
years ago when I visited an old and well-known orphan- 
age, established and controlled by the Church of Scot- 
land, in Palestine, to my question, 'What is the most 
encouraging thing that has come to you as Christian 
missionaries during the past twelve months?' the answer 



I90 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

was: 'Two of our girls have refused to be married be- 
cause they would not be married to Mohammedan men.' 
In every foreign mission field that I have visited the 
girls educated in mission schools must go back into the 
same surroundings, the same atmosphere from which 
they were taken, because they must marry men who 
know nothing of Christ or Christianity. Is it not time 
that we catch a vision of homes and families in these 
lands where Jesus reigns and rules, rather than just of 
the girl or woman who has had an opportunity to know 
and love him in the schoolroom? 

"May I not urge that you earnestly and prayerfully 
consider a change in policy and make a beginning in the 
establishment of schools for boys?" 

It was in her relation to the missionaries that Miss Ben- 
nett's great wisdom as a leader was revealed. She was 
insistent that they should not go to the fields until they were 
"skilled workmen for the Lord," and that they should be 
v^^omen of culture and broad personality, that they might 
command the mental and social respect of the peoples to 
whom they were sent. "A sentimental conception of mis- 
sions will never tend to the selection of the best material 
for foreign or home fields nor prepare a woman for either," 
she affirmed. But above these gifts and accomplishments 
she required that they should be women of vital religious 
experience, sustained by the presence and power of the 
Holy Spirit, with absolute faith in the gospel of Jesus 
Christ and burning passion for the salvation of souls. "With 
all my heart I agree with you on the subject of our securing 
Spirit-filled women for both home and foreign fields. I do 
not care what their education is, or what their personality 
may be, unless the Spirit of God works in and through 
them, they cannot lead others to Christ," she wrote a friend 
in 1919. 

Miss Bennett's human sympathy with the missionaries in 
their inevitable trials and struggles gave her a tenderness 
and consideration for them that far outdistanced official 



HER LIFE WORK 191 

responsibility. She demanded consideration for their 
physical care always, as is shown by this ruling in her mes- 
sage to the Council in 19 14: 

"The first requisite for our missionaries on furlough 
is rest, supervised rest. Our policy of having or allow- 
ing missionaries who are at home for a furlough to 
itinerate through the Conferences as field workers has 
been an exceedingly expensive luxury. We have had 
women come home with depleted vitality, needing rest 
and possibly medical attention, and we have itinerated 
them for a few months or a few weeks with nervous 
systems wrought to the highest tension, and they have 
returned to their missions invalids — perhaps for life — 
a burden to their overworked fellow missionaries, un- 
able to meet requirements, yet unwilling to leave the 
field, holding a place that a new and stronger worker 
ought to occupy, victims of our mistake ! The very best 
are most often sacrificed to this Moloch of missionary 
education. 

"Attendance on the annual meeting of her own Con- 
ference Society and of this Council session should be 
the required itineration of a worker on furlough. Any- 
thing beyond this should be by permission of a care- 
fully selected committee having the oversight of work- 
ers while at home." 

Messages like this to Miss Mary Lou White, home from 
China, whose broken health was evidence of long days of 
overwork, show her understanding sympathy: 

"I hope you will not get discouraged because of the 
*off days,' for it is only too true that the nervous sys- 
tem, when once broken down, takes a long time to 
build up again. We have found, for years past, that it 
is very difficult to get the Church people, and the home 
people too, to understand that rest and physical, mental, 
and spiritual refreshing are the important things con- 
nected with every missionary's furlough period. Of 
course, they come home to see and be with the dear 
ones, but that is often made a taxing part of the home 
visit. The Church people, of course, always want to see 
and hear one coming back from the field ; and when a 



192 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

young woman stands before them and talks interestingly 
and with apparent ease, they do not understand at all 
that it may be a very serious draft on her whole nerv- 
ous system. One of our strong fine women from South 
America came home for her second furlough looking 
well and quite vigorous. She thought that she was quite 
able to answer all the calls that were made on her. 
She told me she made more than a hundred public 
talks while she was at home. She was never quite 
equal to the work after she went back to the field and 
was so lacking in self-control she was a tax on the 
other members of the mission. I am telling you this 
because I know you will be urged to speak in public 
and do a great many things that will tax your strength 
to the uttermost. Don't yield to it unless you yourself 
feel physically equal to it." 

She was ambitious for the intellectual development of 
these women ambassadors of her King and pleaded that they 
might be given opportunities for study, as this passage 
from an address reveals: 

"Every normal missionary wants and needs this 
study. This she should have when the medical director 
considers her physically equal to it. This also should 
be under the direction of the Furlough Committee, that 
the best institution may be selected for each woman 
and her studies so related to the work she goes out to 
do that the best returns for the expenditure of strength, 
time, and money will be assured." 

She tried to stimulate her younger sisters on the field 
to be ready for leadership when it should be thrust upon 
them. This paragraph to one in China shows her forward 
look: 

"Try to take care of your health ; for since you have 
gotten the Chinese language and know the people, you 
ought to have years before you in which you can do your 
best work among them. Time will make many changes 
among those who did this splendid pioneer work in the 
next few years, and the younger women will be com- 
pelled to step into place of leadership." 



HER LIFE WORK 193 

What a spiritual quickening a message like this would be 
to a young worker in the far-away Orient: 

"With every morning life has a new beginning and ) 
to me the apostle's wonderful words, 'redeeming the 
time' (Eph. 5:16), have given me the strength and 
courage to go from one hard thing to another, know- 
ing that he who loves us, as only God can love, will 
be with us and help us, even though we make mistakes." 

For the older missionaries, those who blazed the trail 
for other Southern Methodist women in foreign fields, she 
held the tenderest reverence. A sentence like this to Miss 
Nannie Holding, after describing in detail the progress of 
the institution she founded on the Mexican border, dis- 
closes something of this high appreciation: 

"Dear Miss Holding: With God you laid the founda- 
tion of a wonderful work for Mexico at Laredo, on 
which others are still building, and the increase is still 
being given. A Paul may plant, an Apollos may water, 
but God giveth the increase." 

Hundreds of such letters found their way to "regions 
beyond." In her last illness Miss Bennett said to a friend: 
"If I had just known as a young girl what I know about 
missions now, I believe I should be in India to-day." His 
response, "You are in India to-day, Miss Belle; and not 
only in India but in China and Japan, and even the uttermost 
parts of the earth, because of your influence upon those you 
have sent out," tells the story of her answer to the vision 
of the kingdom won by Christ and those working with 
him " delivered to God, even the Father." 
13 



CHAPTER XI 
FOREIGN TRAVEL 

Miss Bennett was fond of foreign travel and was in- 
defatigable in sight-seeing. The manners and customs of 
people of the world, their art and architecture, and their 
historical monuments and inscriptions, deeply interested her. 
In 1890 she traveled in Europe during the summer months 
with her brother, Mr. Waller Bennett, her niece, Miss Lizzie 
Bennett, who married Mr. Evan McCord later, and Miss 
Eliza Sharp (afterwards Mrs. Bennett Young), of Louis- 
ville, Ky. 

There are no available letters or descriptions of this visit 
to Europe, but a brief line-a-day journal emphasizes some 
things she greatly appreciated. These notes reveal her 
keen interest in the great cathedrals of the different cities 
and her enjoyment of the great art galleries, especially her 
pleasure in Murillo's pictures and Michelangelo's "Won- 
derful Moses." The ancient world became very real to her 
when she visited the Pantheon in Rome, built twenty-seven 
years before Christ, the Forum Romanum and the Colos- 
seum on the Appian Way. One entry in her journal says: 
"I went up the Santa Scala, a flight of one hundred and 
twenty-seven steps, from the Palace of Pilate at Jerusalem 
which our Lord is said to have climbed, brought to Rome 
by Empress Helena 326 A. D." That her thoughts were 
absorbed with historic sights this sentence makes clear: *Tn 
the afternoon we took carriages and drove over the city; I 
was bitterly disappointed in seeing new Rome when my 
mind was so full of the old." 

She went to Oberammergau to witness the Passion Play, 
of which she makes this record: 

(194) 



HER LIFE WORK 195 

*'August 5. — Reached the hotel yesterday in time to 
take a hurried lunch and catch the train for Oberam- 
mergau. It rained all the way, and we arrived about 10 
P.M. We were assigned rooms in the homes of the cot- 
tagers, very simple but tolerably clean. Rainy and cold 
to-day. The Tutts called at noon, and we walked with 
them to see the amphitheater and the statue given the 
village of Ludwig. A quaint little town with about fif- 
teen hundred people, most of them wood carvers. Spent 
part of the afternoon reading the libretto. The old man 
of our cottage personates Barabbas; the woman the 
mother of Tobias. Could not keep the mean little 
feather beds on me last night." 

"August 6. — Our seats good, and although sick sat 
through the whole day and watched the impersonation 
of that awful tragedy. I think the human Christ will 
be more before me now. It is a religious ceremony to 
these simple-hearted people and deeply impressive to 
all who may see it with right spirit. The tableaux and 
costumes are wonderful. The crucifixion seems aw- 
ful. We left at the close and arrived at Munich about 

II P.M." 

Miss Bennett's account of her visit to Kaiserwerth, the 
home of Pastor Fliedner, who introduced the work and 
office of deaconess to the modern Christian Church, is par- 
ticularly interesting in view of the fact that she was largely 
responsible for the creation of the office of deaconess in 
her own Church twelve years later: 

"Eliza Sharp and I ran early and took the train for 
Kaiserwerth, three hours' ride from Cologne. Reached 
a little station out in the woods ; no one could speak 
English, but a deaconess and five or six children got 
off the train, and we explained to her and walked with 
her nearly two miles to the Mother House. We were 
conducted by an English-speaking deaconess through 
the different departments, the hospital, orphanage, etc. 
Finally we called to see Pastor Diesseldorf, son-in- 
law to Fliedner the founder; we were told that eight 
hundred women were at work from Kaiserwerth. A 
great and wonderful institution. A beautiful statue of 
Emperor Frederick stands in front of the Children's 
Hospital." 



196 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

The Methodist Ecumenical Conference was held in 1901 
in London. On July 13, 1901, Miss Mary Helm and Miss 
Bennett sailed on the steamship Weisland as representa- 
tives from the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Miss 
Bennett having been invited to speak at the Woman's Ses- 
sion of the Conference. Mrs. Hugh Price Hughes, of 
London, presided at this meeting, and Miss Bennett's name 
appeared second to the last on the program. After they 
were seated on the platform another American delegate 
came to her, saying: "Mrs. Hughes has agreed to exchange 
our places. You will speak second from first and I in the 
place allotted you." It was most irritating to be manipu- 
lated after this fashion when it was impossible to protest. 
When Miss Bennett was moved tO' determination she had 
a way of throwing her chin outward. No report of this 
meeting or copy of Miss Bennett's address is available, 
but Miss Helm's account lingers in the memory of many 
of Miss Bennett's friends: "Belle threw her chin in the air 
and never spoke so well," she said. With a chuckle she 
continued : "Every speaker was given ten minutes, and when 
that other American spoke over her time Mrs. Hughes 
stopped her. She protested, saying, 'I haven't begun my 
speech yet'; to which Mrs. Hughes repUed: 'Then you 
shouldn't have been so reminiscent.' " 

Miss Bennett and Miss Helm took advantage of this 
visit to England to study the Wesleyan deaconess move- 
ment and the various missions of London. Their diHgence 
in studying these institutions in the interest of their Lord's 
work was commented upon by many who were privileged 
to meet them in London. To Mrs. J. C. Lewis, wife of the 
Principal of Sue Bennett Memorial School, herself English 
born and reared. Miss Bennett writes from London, Eng- 
land, August 22, 1 90 1, concerning their life while abroad: 

"I was so glad to get your good letter when I reached 
London, just a week ago. We are hungry for home 



HER LIFE WORK 197 

letters and feel quite neglected if we do not get two 
or three a week. We have enjoyed our trip and tried 
to travel leisurely, but there is so much to be seen, so 
much that we feel we ought to see, that night usually 
finds us very tired. Our voyage was so long that we 
did not get much of Keswiclc, and I think did not get 
into the spirit of the meeting as we did at Northfield 
last year. There was much of blessing in it, how- 
ever, and it is certainly a great gathering of the Lord's 
people. The air of reverential worship and the sing- 
ing of a great English audience is far beyond anything 
we see or hear in an American audience. Then, too, 
the class of music is far better. But, O, the English 
language 'as it is spoke' over here. We have had a 
fierce struggle to understand enough to buy our rail- 
road tickets and get our meals ! But by patient per- 
severance and continued request to 'spell the word,' 
I am finally getting my ear attuned to the lingo and be- 
ginning to comprehend pretty well. The man who spoke 
the clearest English in the House of Commons when we 
were there last Saturday was a young Welshman, and 
the Irish members were the next best speakers. 

"We tried 'kippers' at Liverpool the morning after 
we landed, and both promptly pronounced them bad, 
very unpalatable. Miss Helm has never changed her 
mind. I have, however, been cultivating a taste for 
kippers and tea, and am beginning to be able to take 
either without making a wry face. 

"We are beginning our study of city mission work in 
earnest. Dr. Lambuth is here, and on Sunday we at- 
tended meeting after meeting until late in the night. 
We are all impressed with the fine, thorough work be- 
ing done by the Salvation Army. W^e have visited many 
of the mission centers and met a number of the lead- 
ing workers in the city. 

"I am so glad you are making such satisfactory prog- 
ress with the new house. I do not fail to pray for the 
committees and contractor daily, and you are all much 
in my thoughts. Tell Miss Campbell I am so glad she 
helped with the county institute. I am sure it must 
advance the interest of the Sue Bennett School. 

"We have not been to Ireland yet, and I fear will not 
be able to meet your sister soon. We had it in our minds 
to stop at New Castle as we came down from Scot- 
land, but finding the schools and Deaconess Houses 



198 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

closed everywhere else for the summer vacation, felt 
sure we would not find her there. The Ecumenical 
begins next week, and the American delegates are al- 
ready coming in. We have met several and heard of 
others." 

The great World's Missionary Conference at Edinburgh 
in 19 1 o called Miss Bennett to Europe again. Many 
Southern Methodist people attended this conference, and 
thus she was surrounded with congenial companionship. 
Miss Bennett tarried in Europe for recreation and travel. 
Something of the character and personnel of this confer- 
ence is outlined in a letter from Edinburgh, Scotland, June 
20, to her sister-in-law, Mrs. Waller Bennett: 

"We reached Edinburgh just a week ago, coming 
direct from Liverpool, where we landed after a lovely 
voyage, the ship folks said the smoothest in ten years. 
We saw numberless icebergs and one whale. Forty or 
fifty Southern people that I knew in one way or another 
made up the party from Texas that we joined at Cin- 
cinnati, and we were joined at Toronto and Montreal 
by a number of pleasant Canadians. The World's Mis- 
sionary Conference is great, too great for us to get a 
good perspective while we are a part of it. Lords, sirs, 
archbishops, and bishops have become so common we 
no longer crane our necks or prick up our ears to see 
or hear them. In Assembly Hall, where about fifteen 
hundred delegates meet for three daily sessions, no man 
or woman except the chairmen of the committees who 
prepared the reports is allowed more than seven 
minutes 'to say his or her say,' no matter how important. 
They are here from all parts of the earth, and the per- 
sonnel of the body is most interesting. The seven- 
minute speeches give us a good opportunity to see or 
hear all the celebrities and to get a first-hand view of 
work and workers from every country. Christian and 
non-Christian. Only a few women have spoken so far, 
and they have been English missionaries from India, 
China, and Japan. There are two women on the busi- 
ness committee, which is the controlling committee of 
the conference — one English and one American. 

"The Edinburgh people have opened their homes and 



HER LIFE WORK 199 

are most cordial in their Jiospitality, but most of us have 
preferred to pay hotel bills and be at liberty to do as 
we please. The conference opened with a great re- 
ception given by the Lord Provost and his cabinet. They 
were gorgeous in real satin gowns, knee breeches, and 
bewigged heads. The most interesting occasion to me, 
however, was the conferring of degrees by the Uni- 
versity of Edinburgh on fourteen members of the con- 
ference, four of whom were Americans. It was a very 
imposing and impressive ceremony. Lucy and I have 
not seen much of each other since we landed, as she is 
at the hotel with the Mimms party, while Mrs. Harrison, 
Miss Davies, and I, declining to take private entertain- 
ment, had to secure rooms at another hotel. I have 
about decided to go on to Oberammergau and Southern 
Europe with the party after the Conference closes, while 
Lucy will remain in Scotland and England for a month, 
going to Oberammergau in August. Our reservations 
were taken for these different dates, and Lucy says she 
expects to spend next winter and spring in Italy and 
will not go South now. We will meet again on the 
continent and now expect to go to Palestine with Miss 
Redford's party, which sails from Naples September 
15. Mrs. Harrison is a delightful traveling companion, 
and we enjoy her very much." 

To Mrs. Waller Bennett she sent this letter from Geneva, 
dated July 22, 1910, in which she tells of many changes 
noted in Rome since her visit in 1890 and gives a graphic 
account of a reception at the Vatican, where she saw his 
holiness Pope Pius IX: 

"Notwithstanding the heat of the midday, we had a 
delightful week in Rome. The wonderful excavations 
in the Forum Romanum, and especially in the palaces 
of the Caesars, since I was in Rome twenty years ago, 
were of the greatest interest to me. The city has grown 
and modernized immensely too, but I did not fail to see 
again the things that gave me so much pleasure when 
I was there before. Some of the galleries have been 
greatly enriched by statuary from the excavations, and 
modern art is beginning to attract the attention of the 
world, even if it is still overshadowed by the great 
masterpieces of the past. Some of the splendid altar 



200 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

pieces have been removed from St. Peter's and replaced 
by Mosaic copies that are considered very fine. 

"I closed my stay at Rome by a visit to the Pope 
and am not at all sorry that I had the opportunity to 
do so. Some members of the party had letters to the 
American Ambassador and, wanting to attend one of 
his holiness's receptions, presented them to the Ameri- 
can office, but were told that the embassy had absolute- 
ly no entrance to the Vatican, no more, that is, than any 
other American citizens, and could do nothing for them. 
Some ladies of the Mimms Company, however, formed 
the acquaintance of a young Bostonian in the hotel who 
had been three years in Rome studying for the priest- 
hood, and he succeeded through one of the cardinals in 
securing eight tickets. One of these was offered me, 
and Mrs. Mimms later gave hers to Mrs. Harrison. 
The reception was announced for ii a.m., and all ladies 
must wear either black or white dresses and veils of 
corresponding color over their heads. I wore a lace 
scarf belonging to my friend, Mrs. Grubbs. Our little 
company of eight met the young priest at the foot of 
the Royal Stairway, on the right side of the Vatican. 
We passed through one or more large halls, out onto 
the Loggia, and thence into a still more spacious hall. 
This was seated all around the walls with sofas and 
comfortable chairs. The Swiss guards, red dressed 
'men in waiting,' and black robed priests were in evi- 
dence everywhere. We were seated in this large re- 
ception room, with many others, and had a very pleasant 
social hour until about one hundred and fifty people 
had joined us. At ii 45 the Swiss guards to the num- 
ber of eight or ten, lined up in one end of the room, 
and with much form and ceremony made a rather 
lengthy announcement which we of course did not un- 
derstand, as it was delivered in the Italian tongue. While 
we were still wondering what it meant, one of the red- 
robed gentlemen lifted a curtain at the comer of the 
room, and we all were marshaled into another still more 
elegant reception room and seated around the walls in 
the same manner as in the first one. This last hall had 
at one end a platform and on it a most magnificent 
golden chair or throne with crimson canopy and much 
other ornamentation. The walls of the room were hung 
with crimson brocatel and had a few splendid large 
pictures on it. All of the Roman Catholic communi- 



HER LIFE WORK 201 

cants, and many of the Protestants, had rosaries, 
crosses, prayer books, and numberless other devotional 
objects in their hands to be blessed by the Holy Father. 
We waited again ten or fifteen minutes, and then, very 
quietly, from a side door, at the throne end of the hall, 
two of the Swiss guards entered, followed by a Cardinal 
preceding the Pope. In the order in which they entered 
the little company made the circuit of the room, the 
Pope extending his hand to each individual, all kneel- 
ing (or leaning forward), gave tlie hand a slight pres- 
sure, and the individual kissed the large seal ring, or 
bowed over it as he desired. There were a few little 
children with their parents and one little chap about 
four years old piped out something in a shrill childish 
voice as the Pope approached him, which brought a 
broad smile to the old gentleman's face and he patted 
the little fellow lovingly on the cheek. After making 
the circuit of the room he stood for a moment, then 
raised his hands and formally blessed all in the room, 
all their families and loved ones, all their possessions, 
and all objects of devotions that they might have with 
them, then turned and left the room, and the audience 
was over. He is a large, strong-looking man with a 
very benign expression on his face and a soft kindly 
Italian voice. He was dressed in a white cloth gown 
and cape, with a small close-fitting skull cap of the 
same on the back of his head. The only color about him 
was his crimson kid slippers. He looked about sixty- 
five or seventy years old. 

"As we left the Vatican we met a Mrs. from 

Paris, Ky., who told us she and two other friends, 
after some little altercation with the guards at the door, 
had entered without tickets or permission from any one. 
I have seen Protestants and American people do the 
most offensive things in the Catholic churches since I 
have been over and at times it has been difficult to hold 
my peace." 

Miss Bennett joined Miss Redford's party for Palestine 
in September, 19 10, and it is cause for regret that no letter 
containing comment upon the country where her Lord 
lived, toiled, and suffered is available for this brief record 
of her travels. This quotation is made from a letter writ- 



202 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

ten in Cairo to her niece, Mrs. Lizzie Bennett McCcrd, of 
Seattle, dated November 4: 

"After an eighteen hours' train ride through the heat 
and glare of the Egyptian desert, we landed at Cairo 
again this morning in time for breakfast. We had just 
hve days for the great temples and ruins of upper 
Egypt. They are wonderfully interesting, and we ought 
to have had two weeks. Lucia and I have really 
groaned in spirit that we could not have another day at 
Luxor and Karnach. The uncertainty about steamers, 
sailing dates, and the cholera situation generally have 
made our movements somewhat unsatisfactory. On 
our arrival this morning we were rejoiced with the good 
news that quarantine had been withdrawn from Naples, 
and the port is now open. 

"The trains to upper Egypt have double tops with 
no ventilators ; double windows, one of blue glass and 
a close slat shutter on the outside. The dust and the 
sand raised by the motion of the train are almost stif- 
fling, and the glare of the sun is something fierce. We 
were expected to stay in the coach with windows and 
doors closed, enduring the situation as best we could. 
This was possible at night in the sleepers, for the nights 
are really cool after ten o'clock. But during the day 
rides to and from Luxor to Assuan I sat on the steps 
of the platform, preferring to swallow the dust and 
sand rather than suffer from the close atmosphere of 
the coach. The country is full of American tourists. 
The only things more in evidence are the goats and 
donkeys. The English, too, are beginning to get back 
from their summer outings, and we find the hotels in 
Cairo looking very gay since our return. 

"The Bible tells us that a mixed multitude went up 
behind the Israelites when they went out of Egypt 
under the leadership of Moses. I don't know how many 
went out, but I know the land is populated with a mixed 
multitude now. The street in front of the hotel at the 
present moment has a motley throng on it that looks as 
if they might have come from every known or un- 
known quarter of the globe. 

"I have grown so interested in English and Egyptian 
politics that I hardly see how I can get on without an 
English paper when I get home. The educational ques- 
tion is to the front here, and I find myself reading the 




WALLER BENNETT 
WHOSE MORAL SUPPORT ENCOURAGED MISS BENNETT'S EVERY ENDEAVOR 



HER LIFE WORK 203 

discussions with as much eagerness as if it were a mat- 
ter of Kentucky poHtics. The American Presbyterian 
and Church of England Mission Boards have each fine 
schools in the large towns of Egypt, and in the last 
years the Mohammedans have opened a few schools for 
girls, but the degradation of the people generally is 
something dreadful considering how long England has 
had a controlling force in the government of the coun- 
try. 

"After dinner. The last dinner gong sounded be- 
fore I could close. We have just finished. I wish you 
could see the number of handsomely dressed women in 
the halls and reception rooms, smoking cigarettes and 
drinking Turkish coffee. I have seen nothing like it 
elsewhere. It is perfectly disgusting !" 

The Woman's Missionary Council in annual session re- 
cjuested Miss Bennett to visit the various foreign mission 
fields, that the women of the Church might catch the view- 
point of an executive of the various institutions projected 
and maintained at their expense. To this end she sailed 
with Miss M. L. Gibson for Brazil in July, 19 13. Letters 
to her family concerning the social life of the people and 
beauty of this great country present the most attractive pic- 
tures. To Mr. and Mrs. Bennett at Richmond she wrote 
from Petropolis, Brazil, August 10, 1913: 

"We landed at Rio de Janeiro in the early morning 
of July 30. We had been told that the bay was the 
most beautiful in the world so all of the newcomers 
on shipboard were up at five o'clock, that we might not 
miss anything of the wonderful things that were to be 
seen. The bay, the clear-cut mountain peaks, the 
splendid city nestling around their base, and the superb 
boulevard, with its rows of stately palms, circling an 
almost oval sheet of deep blue water, certainly sur- 
passed anything like it I have ever seen before. As the 
vessel dropped anchor half a mile out in the bay, to 
wait the coming of the medical inspectors and customs 
officer, we caught the outlines of a steam launch com- 
ing out to meet us. We waited expectantly, hanging 
over the ship's rail with handkerchiefs in hand and in 



204 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

a few moments were answering the salutations of the 
missionaries and Christian Association Secretaries com- 
ing out to meet us. Nearly all our friends and work- 
ers in or near the city had come to welcome us, and we 
certainly did appreciate their loving thoughtfulness 
and the rapidity with which they put us through the 
customs and got us into automobiles. 

"We remained only two days in Rio; then in com- 
pany with Bishop Lambuth, Dr. Cook, and Miss Glenn 
(one of our missionary field secretaries) took the train 
in the wee small hours of the morning for the city of 
Bello Horizonte, the capital of the State of Minas- 
Geraes. It was a fourteen hours' journey up, up, up 
into the mountains. The scenes were glorious, though 
there were no giant peaks, nor snow caps, such as we 
have in our Rockies. We passed through a great many 
towns and villages, and many of the mountain sides 
"were covered with coffee plants. More of these, how- 
ever, were thickly dotted with great ant hills, as large as 
shocks of ripe corn, and about the same color. We were 
told that these ants burrowed their underground tun- 
nels, many, many miles to reach gardens, orange 
groves, and towns, eating up every green thing when 
they reached these places. The hills are very thick and 
strongly built, and the poor people often use them as 
ovens for baking bread. 

"After three very pleasant days at our school at 
Bello Horizonte we returned to this place, where the 
Bishop is holding the Annual Conference. We have 
about twenty-two American men on the field and 
twenty-seven women, five thousand converts and about 
twenty-five native preachers. Brazil is the only coun- 
try in South America where Portuguese is the language 
of the people. Most of our missionaries can learn to 
use it very well in two years if they are given time to 
study, but the pressure for workers is so great that 
many of them break down in health or lose heart be- 
fore they acquire it. We have spread out over the 
territory beyond our ability to supply the missions with 
workers, and I feel like 'Brer Rabbit' in the brier patch 
with the fire all around him as we try to make the ap- 
pointments. . . . 

"The town of Petropolis, where we now are, is just 
out from Rio de Janeiro, but twenty-five hundred feet 
above it is a mountain valley with great peaks loom- 



HER LIFE WORK 205 

ing up all around it. When the yellow fever was a year- 
ly scourge in Rio the old Emperor Dom Pedro selected 
this place as his summer capital. Our school building 
is one of the splendid old homes and is located on a 
mountain peak almost as large as the one on which 
Kenilworth Inn stood at Asheville, N. C. The Em- 
peror's Palace and the homes of the Princesses Isa- 
bella and Leopoldina are not far from us. The Eng- 
lish Ambassador's home, a palace with magnificent 
grounds, is just around the corner from us. Two small 
rivers with concreted and walled banks run through the 
town as the Iser runs through Munich. Quaint little 
bridges span these streams at short intervals, and the 
banks are long lines of exquisite flower beds. This is 
the winter season of course, but it is like our early 
May weather, and many of the flowers and trees are 
heavy with bloom. They have no frost to give the 
country our autumn foliage coloring, but nature avenges 
herself by covering mountains and valleys with most 
wonderful shades of red shrubs and red and purple 
trees I have ever seen. We have nothing like them in 
the United States that I have seen." 

To Miss Helen Bennett, Richmond, Ky., on October 7 
she wrote describing Rio de Janeiro: 

"We returned to Rio ten days ago after a long trip 
to the Southern part of the Republic, and since then in 
hunting a house and location for a large girls' school 
have seen much of this wonderful South American 
city. It is truly very beautiful and quite unlike any 
other I have ever seen, because of the immediate prox- 
imity of the mountain peaks around which the streets 
run and the city is built. The architecture is strictly 
Spanish, all or nearly all of the houses plastered on the 
outside, and few of them even in the business portions 
of the city more than two stories high. Flat tiled roofs 
prevail, and the houses are painted in all the colors of 
the rainbow. It is a city too of beautiful parks, and 
two or three streets, right in the heart of the town, 
have rows of stately palm trees more than a hundred 
feet high on either side of the street. The beautiful 
straight bodies are quite a hundred feet high, fronds 
just at the top, a constant reminder of Mark Twain's 
description of them : 'feather dusters set up on end.* 



2o6 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"The American colony here is quite small, and every- 
body knows everybody else and the English colony as 
well. Many of the missionaries are old settlers and 
quite important factors in the colony life. I find that 
the Americans like the life here very much, if they have 
learned the Portuguese language. Many of them get 
only a colloquial knowledge of it. 

"I greatly enjoyed my visit to one of our boarding 
schools out in the center of the great coffee-growing 
region of the republic. It was twenty-four hours by 
rail from Rio, but one of our churchmen, a railroad 
man, sent his special car half a day's ride from the 
city, Ribeirao Preto, for us, and we made the journey 
very comfortably. He is the only prominent man I 
have met in our Church out of Rio. In this city we 
have some few fine American men. While at Ribeirao 
Preto we were taken out to the coffee farm of a Bra- 
zilianized German who came over as an emigrant at 
sixteen years of age and is now known as the Coffee 
King of the world. The soil all up in that part of 
Brazil is dark red in color and evidently very rich. 
They say it will produce all kinds of grain in abun- 
dance; but coffee is so much more valuable, they raise 
little else but coffee. This coffee king has nine mil- 
lion trees and keeps a colony of ten thousand Italians 
to cultivate and gather the crop." 

Miss Bennett sets fourth the customs of marketing and 
some of the Church festivities in Rio in this graphic letter 
to another niece: 

"My Dear Marie: I wish you could have been with me 
at the big Central Market a few mornings ago, when I 
saw hundreds of street market venders filling their 
baskets, swinging them across their shoulders, and trot- 
ting out into the city streets. More than two thousand 
go out every day. They have all kinds of vegetables 
and fruits; sometimes one basket will be full of fish 
or shrimp and oysters, and sometimes one will have 
chickens, or a turkey in one. Every man has certain 
streets on which he sells, and it is very interesting to 
watch them walking up and down the street calling 
out their wares. 

"You would have been interested too in some of the 



HER LIFE WORK 207 

Roman Catholic services I have attended. During the 
month of October St. Michael is given fiestas in the 
churches all over the city, and I have seen a number of 
these. His image, made of wood, is dressed up as a 
beautiful young knight of the Middle Ages. The image 
of the Virgin Mary (she is always called Our Lady, 
out here) is taken off the high altar in the choir of 
the church, and St. Michael, with drawn sword, is put 
up in her place. He is believed to be the defender of 
God ; the defender of man ; the defender of the Church ; 
and the defender of all of these, against Martin Luther. 
"The great altars are lighted with hundreds of 
candles and banked with beautiful flowers underneath 
the saint, and men and women in green and white uni- 
forms do him honor in various ways. There are no 
big pipe organs in the churches here like we have at 
home, but on St. Michael's Sunday they generally have 
a strong band and lovely music. All of the churches 
have private boxes high up in the side walls, and dur- 
ing the worship on this Sunday great clouds of rose 
leaves are thrown out of the boxes nearest the high 
altar, and dozens of little birds are turned loose at the 
same time. The birds seem quite gentle, but they are 
so blinded by the blaze of light many of them fall to 
the floor and are easily caught. The streets in front 
of the churches and the floors inside are always thick- 
ly strewn with green leaves when they are having a 
fiesta'; so if the newspapers did not announce it, you 
could always see as you walk or ride along the streets 
when one was being celebrated. 

The national celebrations of Latin America are great 
occasions and in some countries they are numerous, because 
they have had to overthrow foreign domination as well as 
monarchical forms of government inherited from their 
first conquerers. Miss Bennett sent to Miss Lucia Burnam, 
Richmond, Ky., this interesting account of government cel- 
ebrations in Rio de Janeiro: 

"This is Brazil's independence day. Just twenty- 
four years ago the bloodless revolution took place, and 
the old Dom Pedro H and his family were ordered to 
leave the country in twenty-four hours. By way of as- 
sisting them to comply with the order the Secretary of 



2o8 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

War, with a small escort of soldiers, put them on a 
vessel the next morning at four o'clock, and deported 
them to Portugal. We were aroused early this morning 
by the sounds of cannonading, which was taking place 
on both sides of the bay. These people dearly love a 
demonstration, and they know how to make one. The 
city is beautifully lighted at all times on the principal 
streets. In addition to this, the parks, public squares, 
flower beds, prominent walls, and other conspicuous 
places are strung with electric lights, and with a few 
extra touches and an order to the gunboats and other 
sea craft on the bay the city can be brilliantly illumi- 
nated on short notice. 

*T know you will be amused when I tell you that the 
automobile driving here has gotten decidedly on my 
nerves. The bay front esplanade and driveway is the 
finest I have ever seen, and there are more and hand- 
somer machines than I have ever seen massed together 
in any city before. The climate is hot and enervating 
for seven or eight months in the year, and the wealthy 
people live in the autos from the time the breeze springs 
up in the afternoon until almost midnight. The city 
government has not been able, or perhaps willing, to en- 
force a speed limit, and as a consequence two or three 
times a week the most terrible tragedies take place. 
Pedestrians on the sidewalks are never safe; and while 
the greatest number of accidents take place to those in 
the machines, little children and old people are always 
in danger. I said to a gentleman who lives here : T have 
never seen such reckless driving. I think these machines 
must reach seventy-five and a hundred miles an hour.' 
'Certainly they do,' he answered. The one saving fea- 
ture is two drivers to every car. The city compels a 
chauffeur and an assistant. I said to another person : 
*I often want to get behind one of these big iron posts 
when I see a car driving at such mad speed.' He point- 
ed to a large one standing in a small equestrian drive 
near by and said: *A machine with four persons in it 
rushed into that one, or another that stood there, last 
week, broke it into three pieces and crushed the auto 
and occupants to pieces.' The ambulances and police 
autos that respond to the call of the local police where 
these accidents take place are quite as death dealing 
as the private cars and public taxis. 

"Mr. Roosevelt's visit was a notable event, and the 



\ 



HER LIFE WORK 209 

little colony of American people (North American) 
greatly enjoyed it. Mr. Morgan, our Ambassador, gave 
him a beautiful reception at the handsomest club build- 
ing in the city, which was attended by five or six hun- 
dred American, Canadian, and English people. Mr. 
Morgan has been very much interested in helping us 
in a quiet way to secure property for the school, and 
Mr. Roosevelt promptly evinced the liveliest interest 
in the same. He made only two public addresses while 
in the city, one before a thousand men at the Y. M. 
C. A. and the other before the National Geographic 
Society, which brought him here. I was present at the 
first, and he made a good straight- forward plain talk on 
'character in the individual' as a foundation for national 
greatness, and the necessity for a daily practice of 
'everyday homely virtues' in the building of character. 
I was later interested and pleased to see the news com- 
ments on his speeches and his visit in general. One of 
the first which we all enjoyed was : 'Col. Roosevelt is 
a better Protestant preacher than he is a political speak- 
er. Of Mr. Bryan the same can be said, and Mr. Root 
was on the same order.' He was entertained in the 
Palace of the Princess Isabella, oldest daughter of Dom 
Pedro H, by the government, and every waking hour 
must have been full of sight-seeing and attending the 
entertainments given him by public men. A comment 
bearing on this was : 'Nothing drags or lags where Mr. 
Roosevelt is; the servants in the palace say they just 
unconsciously move faster whenever he is anywhere 
around.' Again : 'Mr. Roosevelt is a good exemplifica- 
tion of the tireless energy of the people of the United 
States of North America ; they do not stop.' The Colonel 
now is over in Chile, or some of the western countries." 

In 1916 and 1917 Miss Bennett and the Secretary of 
Foreign Work visited the institutions of the Woman's Mis- 
sionary Society in the Orient. To her friend. Miss Lucile 
Crooke, she wrote on February i, 191 7: 

"We have had a most interesting and instructive trip 
and also a very strenuous one, for we have visited every 
one of our mission stations in Japan, Korea, and China. 
We have attended the annual meetings of each of these 
missions and have given ample time for each of the 
14 



2IO BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

several hundred missionaries to have a personal inter- 
view and tell us of their problems. We have attended 
committee meetings for our own Church work and 
also for the various interdenominational movements. 
In all these months we have had not more than ten days 
of sight-seeing. Of course, as we have investigated con- 
ditions in the different places, we have seen many of 
the most interesting things, and we have had the com- 
pany of the missionaries who could give us the best in- 
formation. Travel in the East is far from the easy 
thing that it is in America." 

To her sister, Mrs. Waller Bennett, she wrote concern- 
ing mutual friends in Korea, closing with this interesting 
account of a bit of social life which she permitted herself 
to enjoy: 

"While we were in Korea, Baron Yun Chi Ho (the 
conspiracy prisoner) gave Miss Head and myself a 
banquet, to which all the missionaries and some other 
foreigners were invited. At the banquet I was seated 
by the Prince's mother, who was at the end of the 
center table, and his wife sat just on the other side of 
me. As they neither one spoke English and I spoke no 
Korean, we observed the Korean custom of keeping 
quiet at meals, except when a missionary interpreted 
for me, the said missionary being across the table, one 
seat down. We had another afternoon tea given us, 
which was attended by the members of the Legations, 
and all the other three hundred foreigners in the city 
it seemed to me. As we were in the Conference all day 
and committees until midnight, the social functions were 
more than we could find time for, so we had to decline 
a number of others." 

Among the personal letters Miss Bennett wrote during 
the months she was in the Orient is this one tO' Miss Lucia 
Burnam, dated Soochow, China, October 30, 1916: 

"Through the kindness of a missionary friend I am 
sending you a letter from a house boat on the Grand 
Canal. 

"I wish I could tell you something of this country as 
we see it from day to day. This trip up, or rather 



HER LIFE WORK 211 

down, the Grand Canal has been full of interest. The 
country itself doesn't look unlike our own Kentucky 
blue-grass region if seen from a distance. Certain fea- 
tures, however, are so markedly apparent when close by 
you cannot fail to have them loom up before you. You 
have doubtless often heard it said that China is one vast 
cemetery. This is so to a much larger extent than you 
can possibly believe unless you see it. The bodies are 
buried in great round mounds, some of them twenty 
and thirty feet in diameter and ten or fifteen feet high. 
These are usually family mounds. Those where a single 
body has been buried are from twelve to fifteen feet 
in diameter and about six feet high. As you approach 
the cities these mounds seem almost to touch each 
other along the hillsides and even in the valleys, and 
through the great rice fields they are very close to- 
gether. We have been told a number of times that 
quite one-eighth of the country is taken up by these 
burial mounds. Many families of wealth have been 
utterly broken up financially by the continued changes 
of burial places. If there is sickness or bad luck of any 
kind in the family, the sorceress is sought and asked, 
of course, what causes it, and for a small or large fee 
they are told that the body of some ancestor is dis- 
turbed in its burial place and must be changed. In 
some instances the changes take place so often and are 
so expensive that the family is impoverished. Yester- 
day before leaving Huchow, as we were out visiting 
our day schools, we were taken through the large, 
rambling home of a once wealthy and still quite promi- 
nent family. In the big reception room, which is a 
stone-floored court, we saw an immense coffin of the 
mother of this family; it was a Christian family, how- 
ever, and this woman herself had been a very devout 
Christian. It is the custom of many of these people 
to keep the body of the mother or father in an open 
niche in the house for months or even years, but these 
are generally the heathen people. In this instance we 
were told by one of the missionaries that this body had 
been kept in the house because the woman's jewels 
were put in the coffin, and they feared if she was buried 
in the ground (or rather on top of it, as the coffins are 
placed and then covered over with these mounds) it 
might be broken into and the jewels stolen." 



212 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

To Miss Bumam she wrote this description of that most 
interesting of all life affairs, a wedding: 

"We also had an opportunity of attending a Christian 
Chinese wedding yesterday evening just before the 
dinner hour. Both parties were old students of our 
mission schools, and they were, therefore, married in 
the church. The Chinese people are the noisiest I have 
ever seen — the Negroes not excepted. In this instance 
the bride was brought over in a Chinese chair, preceded 
by a Chinese band which is largely made up of wind 
instruments, and such a noise as they made coming 
into the churchyard and filing into the gallery as all 
the congregation stood up to see them you have rarely 
heard! The young woman was handsomely dressed in 
a pink embroidered Chinese gown, which was a rented 
one, according to custom. She was the first who had 
worn this beautiful garment, but would doubtless be 
succeeded by a great many other brides. She also, fol- 
lowing American custom, had on a long, pink, net veil 
gathered in a sort of crown at the top of her head and 
falling to the bottom of her skirts. White is mourning 
in China, and she, of course, could not wear a white 
veil. The ladies tell us that most of them are married 
in mosquito net veils, as they cannot get finer material 
for veiling in the interior towns. The bride was accom- 
panied by two young girls as maids of honor who held 
her up by each arm, and they were followed by two 
others. The girls here under seventeen all wear close- 
fitting pants with short jackets; after seventeen they 
put on skirts, while the men and boys wear the skirts 
from childhood ! It is very difficult to tell the girls from 
boys except by the hair. The men and boys are now 
having their hair cut, while the girls still wear the long 
braids. The groom, with two or three young men accom- 
panying him, came in at the other door of the church, 
and all met at the altar, the bride and groom standing 
some distance apart. When the time came for them to 
join hands, according to the Methodist ceremony, the 
preachers had some trouble in getting them to extend 
their hands, as the two young people had never touched 
each other before, and though they were of prominent 
families and both members of the Christian Church, 
they had almost no acquaintance with each other. After 
the ceremony they were seated in two large chairs 



I 



HER LIFE WORK 213 

just in front of the altar rail while one of the mission- 
aries sang a solo. A chorus of small boys had filed up in 
front of them before the ceremony and given a selec- 
tion also. We were told that in many instances quite 
a number of speeches are made as the bridal party sit 
in these chairs and listen. The one solo after the cere- 
mony, however, was all on this occasion, and when this 
was over the bride wdth her attendants turned and 
walked, followed by the groom and his attendants. A 
large feast had been given at midday by the bride's 
family, and after the ceremony she was taken to the 
groom's house and another feast was given there. The 
houses are always wide open, and any and everybody 
can go in, walk all over the house, look at the bride 
and examine her clothes as she sits with downcast face 
and eyes. Invitations are issued by the family to the 
feast, but all w^ho attend these are expected to take a 
certain amount of money with them, which is a kind 
of fee for their supper. The servants of the guests also 
sit down to the feast if there are vacant places when 
the invited have been seated. All guests take servants 
with them. Three large houses in the city of Huchow 
were devoted to these feasts during the day. The women 
were entertained in one and the men in the two others. 
Of course the men and women never sit together. The 
bride is seated in her bedroom beside her much-deco- 
rated bed, and after the feasts are over the friends of 
the groom and often many other men go in and tease 
her. She must show no evidence of feeling or even 
recognition; and if she does so, it is taken as a sign of 
impurity. We did not attend these feasts, as we have 
had one of twenty-four courses given us and have also 
had a dinner of many courses. We took something of 
each one of the twenty-four courses the first time, but 
we do not propose to repeat this !" 

To other friends she wrote concerning the kitchen gods 
of China: 

"Every Chinese home has its kitchen god, who in a 
way presides over the family affairs. There is usually 
a small altar somewhere about the stove upon which 
they place his food. A Chinese stove is a concrete box 
with a flue and two or more holes for the cooking pots. 
It is fed with straw, which takes the time of one person 



214 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

while the cooking is going on. At the New Year season 
the kitchen god goes up to the other world to report on 
the family record. He is sent up in smoke. He is rep- 
resented by a red piece of paper, oblong in shape, on 
which is the picture of the god in blue, black, yellow, 
etc. This is folded up and put in a chair like the chairs 
on which the people ride in China. This is brought out 
to the front of the house on a tray with some food, 
bowls of wine, a bouquet of pine, bamboo and a flower. 
They pile up some rolls of paper that contain cloth for 
his wearing apparel, both silk and cotton, then add some 
paper money for his use, put the chair and the bouquet 
on the pile, and set it on fire in the narrow street. As it 
burns they pour on wine. In the bottom of the chair is 
a piece of wood that will bum longer than the rest. 
This is taken out by the man or woman of the house and 
taken back to the kitchen to start the new year fire. 
They often put some sweet on the lips of the god, so 
that he will tell only the good about them. He stays for 
four or five days and then comes back to the kitchen. 
They may revel as much as they please while he is 
away and there is no one to tell on them. 

"The money is covered with either silver or gold 
paper and is called ghost money. It is used also in 
funerals. The streets are very narrow, dark, and dirty, 
but the fourth and fifth nights before the new year 
they are well lighted by this burning. 

"The New Year in China is the time when all must 
pay their debts. Men go around for days collecting, 
and often stay at the homes of their debtors all night 
worrying the family. They are very abusive and have 
been known to whip the wife and children. They can- 
not collect after the dawn of New Year unless the 
man is willing to pay, so they must use all the pres- 
sure possible before that time. It is a good time to 
buy, for if the merchant needs money for his debts he 
will sell cheap. Usually Chinese merchants are not 
eager to sell, or do not seem to be. One goes to the 
store where everything is on shelves and not out for 
display. If you call for some kind of goods he will ask 
all about just what kind you want and bring out just 
one piece. If that is not what you want, you try again 
to give a careful description and he gets one more piece. 
This process goes on for hours perhaps before you get 
what you want, provided you have the patience to wait 



HER LIFE WORK 215 

for it to come. In only the few port cities have they 
learned a better way and to know that foreigners want 
to see their goods. When our Embroidery Mission at 
one time wanted to buy a large quantity of a certain 
kind of linen, the merchant calmly told them that he 
did not care to sell so much, for it would take all he 
had. 

"The temples of China show many signs of disuse 
and decay. Some of them are used for great occasions 
just once a year and then are closed up. We saw only 
a few that were still handsome and well kept. One of 
them was the 500 God Temple of Soochow. It has 
500 gods all large and covered with gold leaf or a hand- 
some bronze. They represent all kinds of gods, and so 
people go there for all forms of worship. There are 
the heroes who have been elevated to gods, who served 
in various forms of life, the large image of Buddha 
and his retainers, a Goddess of Mercy with a thousand 
hands, etc. The day we were there they were doing 
some repairing, and we saw the crude wood figure made 
of rough sticks over which they put the mud and then 
the gilding. While the worshipers could see this going 
on they did not seem to be affected by it. The hollow- 
ness of it all did not seem to come to them. There are 
a large number of priests connected with this temple 
and quite a group of boys in training for priests." 

It is fitting that Miss Bennett's account of her journeys 
in the Orient should end v^ith some story of the effort of 
the Church of God to bring the Christ, "the better hope," 
to these peoples v^hose hoary faiths have kept them in 
bondage to error and superstition. The letter was sent to 
Prof. J. C. Lewis, long-time Principal of Sue Bennett 
Memorial School: 

"We are now on a return journey from a trip of more 
than six hundred miles up the great old Yangtze-Kiang 
River. The experience has been most restful and de- 
lightful after the six strenuous weeks of work in our 
China Missions. This is a wonderful country. God has 
surely done his part in the creation of all material things 
that make for comfort and blessing to humanity. As far 
as the eye can reach over the plains and valleys on either 



2i6 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

side of this great river, the earth is a great kitchen 
garden. The river, quite a mile wide in many places, is 
alive with all kinds of water craft, from the big ocean 
liners to the little fishing smacks and the wretched 
straw mat covered house boats in which whole families 
live and move and have their being. The scene is of 
ceaseless interest. I wish you could see it. We came 
up the river to visit the missions in Nankin, Kinkiang, 
and Hankow. The first is the old capital of China and 
is the seat of most of our Union Mission Schools. Five 
of our North American Churches have united on a 
Union University for men and a Union Theological 
Seminary, the Woman's Boards on a Union College for 
women and a Union Woman's Bible Teacher School. 
Kinkiang has a splendid Northern Methodist Mission, a 
Boys' High School, a Girls' High School, a Woman's 
Bible Teacher School, and a large Woman's Hospital, 
of which Dr. Mary Stone, the most widely known 
Chinese woman physician in China, is in charge. All 
of these are fine. Other Boards are at work in this 
city, but we did not have the time to see more. Han- 
kow and the two adjoining cities have a population of 
nearly or quite 2,000,000. The American Episcopal 
Church, the English Church, and others have been at 
work there for more than forty years. As I looked at 
the splendid bodies of young students, men and women, 
nearly all of them earnest Christians before they leave 
the schools, I have felt in my heart that China was being 
reached by the Spirit of God and must soon come to 
Christ, though the pressure of heathenism all over the 
land is so great it almost stififles one. Pray for China !" 



CHAPTER XII 
THAT THEY MAY ALL BE ONE 

Miss Bennett's broad, catholic spirit made her 
courteous always to persons of varying creeds and cults. 
It enabled her to reverence their search for truth and 
brought her into a sympathetic kinship with men and women 
who were searching for God, no matter how. Doctrinal 
differences were forgotten in their common faith in one 
God and an overmastering devotion to Jesus Christ. With 
the Jew and the Roman Catholic she could join in worship 
and world service, for, like herself, they believe in the one 
God. 

Miss Bennett was unreservedly loyai to her own branch 
of the Church universal. But in her outlook upon the non- 
Christian world she saw the strength of the gospel mes- 
sage weakened by divided evangelistic forces. She was 
convinced that emphasis upon theological dogma or doctri- 
nal differences of the Christian Churches at work in the 
mission fields was unwise, nay, harmful, as blocking the way 
or foisting upon new believers interpretations of Scripture 
and modes of worship that had often grown out of his- 
torical or economic pressure in the Western world. Unity 
of objective and of spirit in presenting the gospel of Jesus 
Christ to the multiplied peoples of the earth she knew to be 
the will of the Father, and no less certainly did she realize 
that the magnitude of the task was beyond the power of 
any one denomination. It was the greatness of the enter- 
prise that gave her a passion for interdenominational co- 
operation. 

She early became a representative of her Church at inter- 
denominational conferences, where her great spirit soon 
won leadership. The spirit of comity and cooperation in 

(217) 



2i8 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Church work through the Salvation Army, the Young 
Woman's Christian Association, the Council of Women 
for Home Missions, the Federation of Foreign Mission 
Boards, and the larger Church movement, the Federal 
Council of Churches of Christ in America, she counted as 
an earnest of the unity of spirit and bond of fellowship 
which must prevail throughout the militant Church ere the 
kingdom comes. Miss Bennett was particularly interested 
in the Foreign Mission Conference of North America, as 
the greatest interdenominational force in this country. She 
served on its Committee of Reference and Council, to which 
she contributed valuable service in its effort to enter into co- 
operative work. 

Miss Bennett was greatly interested in the discussions 
concerning perparation of missionaries at the great World 
Missionary Conference at Edinburgh in 19 lo. The Board 
of Missionary Preparation eventuated from this Confer- 
ence. Among other duties set before this Board was the 
instruction *'to confer with the Societies and Boards as to 
the best method of working toward the formation of an 
International Missionary Committee." It was inevitable 
that Miss Bennett should be selected for membership in 
this International Missionary Committee at its first meet- 
ing. The notice of her election reads : 

"347 Madison Ave,, New York City, Feb. 26, 1921. 

Miss Belle H. Bennett, LL.D., 

Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 
Richmond, Ky. 

"Dear Miss Bennett: As you know, you were elected 
at Garden City in January to serve as a member of the 
International Missionary Committee. This committee 
will hold its first meeting October 1-7, 1921, in the 
United States. The place for the meeting will be chosen 
and announced within two or three months. I write 
you to-day to request you kindly to set apart and pro- 
tect the entire period, October i, to 7, inclusive. 
From present indications, we shall have at the meet- 



HER LIFE WORK 219 

ing members from Great Britain, France, Germany, 
Holland, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Den- 
mark, Finland, South Africa, Australia, India, China, 
Japan, and the Near East. We are most desirous of 
having present to welcome them and to take counsel 
with them every American and Canadian member. 
With God's assured presence and guidance, the forth- 
coming meeting should exert a marked influence in the 
direction of furthering international understanding, 
planning, and action. Realizing how highly important 
this is, let us seek to make conscientious preparation in 
prayer, 

"Please acknowledge receipt of this letter. 
Sincerely yours, 

John R. Mott." 

This great meeting was held at Lake Mohonk, N. Y., 
October 1-7, 192 1, and was one of the great episodes of her 
life, as she saw there the oneness of spirit in the united pur- 
pose of the evangelical Churches of the world which must 
accomplish the Master's will. She seldom wrote for pub- 
lication, nor did she often enlarge upon her own experi- 
ences; hence this letter to Miss Howell gives her best ex- 
pression concerning this great occasion: 

"I reached home late last night, having been gone 
three weeks to-morrow. The International meeting was 
truly a wonderful meeting. I think I have attended 
only one other that was so impressive, and that was 
the great meeting in Edinburgh in 1910. 

"Twelve foreign lands, including England, were rep- 
resented by thirty-five delegates or coopted members. 
I think there were about ten of the latter. There were 
fifty-four in all, including Secretaries, and many of the 
men had brought their wives and daughters, so that 
altogether there were something like seventy-five or 
eighty in the company. I cannot begin to tell you of it 
in writing; but when I see you, will, I hope, be able to 
give you just a glimpse of the body and tell you some- 
thing of the great things, peoples, and subjects that 
were discussed. 

"The hottest discussion, and perhaps the longest at 
the meeting, was on Dr. Brown's article — I mean, based 



220 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

on that question — the Church in the Mission Field, in 
the October number of the International Review of 
Missions. There was a very general consensus of be- 
lief that the native Christian leaders and Church mem- 
bers must be given more leadership, be called more into 
the councils of the Churches, and must have greater 
authority in every way than they have ever had in 
the past, or the Church will continue to be a foreign 
Church. The paper drawn up by the special committee 
appointed to consider this question brought out all of 
these things in detail ; and while we could not all see 
how everything in a mission could be turned over to 
native leadership, we saw the justice and wisdom of it, 
even in much of Africa. 

"From the first hour of the meeting at Mohonk, all 
members of the committee were urged to give nothing 
out to reporters or for publication in any way. The 
meetings were all held behind closed doors, except two 
at evening, at which missionaries and foreign mem- 
bers of the committee spoke to the guests of the hotel." 

As leader of a great missionary organization, sitting on 
committees of appropriation and appointment of mission- 
aries, where always the supply of either women or money 
was inadequate to measure to the plea from the fields for re- 
enforcement, Miss Bennett's conviction of the need of con- 
servation through interdenominational union in missionary 
service had been deepened. This attitude was greatly 
strengthened when she made a scientific study of Protestant 
work in Latin America in 19 15. The great Congress on 
Christian Work in Latin America was held in Panama, 
February, 19 16, for discussion of problems and methods of 
work of the Protestant Church in the eighteen countries 
embraced in the name Latin America. The preparation for 
the Congress was made through eight commissions, with 
given subjects for investigation, whose reports furnished 
data for discussion. Miss Bennett was selected as Chair- 
man of the Commission on Woman's Work, composed of 
seventeen experienced workers, representatives of different 
nations and types of work. This was no little honor, but it 



HER LIFE WORK 221 

was difficult and a laborious task. Mrs. Ida W. Harrison, 
LL.D., of Lexington, Ky., was Secretary of the Commis- 
sion, and together they planned and executed a most in- 
teresting and stimulating report. 

Through a most exhaustive questionnaire sent to a hun- 
dred responsible persons, an invaluable mass of material 
was collected which furnished the basis of intelligent dis- 
cussion. The report covered historical statements concern- 
ing the beginnings of organized Protestant work for women 
in the various countries of Latin America, with very brief 
sketches O'f some leading pioneer missionary women in dif- 
ferent parts of the Americas. Pen pictures of the share 
native women had in the struggles for freedom were drawn. 
The collective traits of the women of the leisure class, the 
self-supporting, the humbler class, and the Indians were out- 
lined. The questions of educational advances, including 
reports of national and private primary, secondary, high, 
and normal schools with varying courses were discussed. 
The social consciousness of Latin American women was 
portrayed, revealing their interest in clubs and societies, 
their support of betterment organization and cooperation in 
the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Young 
Woman's Christian Association. The report showed the 
need for a more efficient educational program for Protes- 
tant schools; it showed the power of social-evangelistic 
work to serve the children, young people, and the home in 
their spiritual need ; it pointed to the enlargement of service 
by a larger use of native workers ; it revealed the need of a 
larger use of Christian literature and cooperating agencies. 
The findings of the Commission called for the appoint- 
ment in far greater numbers of gifted, cultured, specially 
prepared women; it urged provision for varied types of 
educational service, interboard cooperation, freer use of 
Christian literature, greater use of native workers, and pro- 



222 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

motion of social-evangelistic work. The closing paragraph 
reads: 

"The great note of unity should run through all our 
work — social, educational, and evangelistic — for this 
day of conservation. The urgency of the task should 
permit of no waste. The Latin people are already 
familiar with the outward and visible unity of the 
Roman communion. . . . 

"The great task of bringing evangelical Christianity 
to Latin America cannot be accomplished with divided 
ranks. It demands the combined forces of Chris- 
tianity to develop a statesmanlike policy for the ac- 
complishment of the task. 

"As we push forward to make Jesus Christ King and 
Saviour of our Western Hemisphere, we should remem- 
ber it can be done only in answer to his prayer : 'That 
they may all be one, . . . that the world may believe 
thou didst send me.' " 

It is not difficult to trace Miss Bennett's compelling in- 
fluence in this report of the Commission on Woman's Work. 
That the Committee on Cooperation in Latin America has 
applied these findings to woman's work on the fields re- 
veals that they are practical as well as suggestive. 

Miss Bennett's position concerning denominational union 
in mission fields was reenforced by a visit to the Orient in 
19 16-17. She was also persuaded that there was great need 
of social-evangelistic centers in the great cities, to establish 
opportunity for personal touch with great masses of 
Orientals who had not come to the Church nor so' much as 
heard of the gospel. She and the Secretary of the Foreign 
Work included this suggestion in their report to the Coun- 
cil: 

"Our woman's work in Seoul has taken on many in- 
stitutional features under the leadership of the evan- 
gelistic workers. Miss Myers and Mrs. J. P. Campbell. 
Here a central plant for settlement work is needed. 
This ought to be a union institution, since in the capital 
city a number of boards are at work. In the foreign 



HER LIFE WORK 22^ 

field, thank God, the various denominations are learn- 
ing to know that united effort is a conservation of 
money, time, and life." 

Concerning other union enterprises in Korea they re- 
ported: 

"Two union efforts have been very successful — viz., 
the Union Bible Institute at Seoul, in which we unite 
with the Northern Methodists and Northern Presby- 
terians, and the Union Bible School at Wonsan, with 
the Canadian Presbyterians. These schools, as do our 
other Bible schools, last from six weeks to three 
months; and the workers go back to do a good work 
in their own communities. With representatives from 
other missions, we considered the need for a Union 
Bible School with a nine months' term and good en- 
trance requirements. A higher grade of Bible woman 
is a manifest need in all the Oriental fields. While no 
definite plans for such a school were inaugurated, a 
union committee was appointed to study the question 
more fully and to call another conference in 1917." 

With zeal born of conviction Miss Bennett proceeded to 
urge the establishment of a union evangelistic enterprise at 
Seoul upon the Council, among her friends, and with other 
mission boards. The depth of her conviction on this ques- 
tion is portrayed in her letters to Mrs. L. H. Glide, to whom 
she always v^rote v^hen in need of counsel and help: 

"You will remember the community center, with a 
big hall for evangelistic meetings we told you were 
so much needed in Seoul, Korea. We cannot get the 
location and put up what we need for less than twenty- 
five or thirty thousand dollars. We feel such a build- 
ing ought to be a union plant when it is needed by all 
and is so expensive. We want the Northern Presby- 
terians and the Northern Methodists to give ten thou- 
sand each, we to do the same. You were good enough 
to say you thought you would be able to furnish that 
amount. 

"It takes a long time and so much work to get a 
union mission of any kind on any field. Haven't those 



224 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

oil wells bubbled up yet? If they have and you could 
just let me have the whole amount, God's Community 
House with an Evangelistic Hall for gospel services 
every night in the week would soon glorify him in 
Seoul. The Koreans make wonderful Christians and 
great preachers. I could write on and on to you, dear 
friend, of the need of these halls and evangelists in 
Japan, China, and Korea, yes, and Brazil too; but the 
needs are looming up everywhere, and there are sq few 
to meet them." 

Later she wrote: 

"We will need quite $30,000 for tne plant. After 
we get that, I am quite sure the Council will gladly pay 
all current expenses. We do seem slow in establish- 
ing these works for saving souls; but when we know 
God is with us and is guiding us, our hearts are made 
brave for the struggle. I only wish we had all the 
money and could go forward without having to de- 
pend on other denominations. Don't think, dear friend, 
that I have added that clause by way of asking you to 
do more. You promised the $10,000, and I know that 
all you have belongs to the Lord, and he gives you your 
judgment, as well as your heart, that you may decide 
where he wants you to put the money he has given 
you. What a strong, brave soldier you have been all 
of these years!" 

Mrs. Glide made it possible to begin this social evangel- 
ism in Seoul by giving ten thousand dollars. Later the 
Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal Churches joined in 
the enterprise. The records show union work in the Union 
Bible Training School at Seoul and also at Wonsan. Four 
evangelistic centers in different cities of Korea carrying 
the gospel of love and service to thousands of men, women, 
and children were established within four years. Native 
Christian workers, a Korean woman doctor, and a few 
missionaries are the human instruments God is using as his 
witnesses in plants zvhich are because he gave Belle Bennett 
leadership one time in Korea. 

When China became a republic and announced an educa- 



HER LIFE WORK 225 

tional program for government schools which called for a 
million teachers, the missionary force realized the day of 
Christianity's largest opportunity had arrived. There could 
never be a hope of supplying missionary teachers in suffi- 
cient numbers to touch the outer rim of the demand, nor 
could a teaching force be sufficiently augmented by sending 
Chinese students to Western countries. There could be but 
one line of action, that of building colleges and teacher- 
training schools in China, that larger numbers of native 
Christians might have the necessary preparation for leader- 
ship in new China. 

At Nanking five cooperating mission boards established 
Gingling College, for higher education of Chinese women. 
Graduates of mission high schools find there the usual col- 
lege courses, with opportunity for specialized work. The 
first money paid toward the purchase of this property was 
ten thousand dollars (the agreed pro rata of each board 
participating) sent by order of Miss Bennett and Mrs. J. 
B. Cobb, Foreign Secretary, for the Woman's Missionary 
Council in 19 13. To Miss Bennett this movement stood 
for the enrichment of life and freedom from bondage of a 
great people through the teachers, the wives, and the 
mothers who would go from its halls out into the service 
of China's four hundred million people. It was Miss Ben- 
nett's great privilege to name her friend, Miss Ella Hanna- 
walt, as head of the department of Education at Ginling 
College. 

While classical preparation of Chinese teachers was in- 
augurated by the new college movement, the Nanking Bible 
Teachers' School was organized to meet the growing need 
of Bible teachers in the mission schools and in the social- 
evangelistic work of China. Again Miss Bennett led the 
women of her Church into an enterprise jointly supported 
by five woman's missionary boards. Miss Ruth Brittain, 
15 



226 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

the Council's own daughter from Alabama, represents the 
Southern Methodist Church as dean of the faculty. 

When the Mary Black Hospital at Soochow, China, de- 
veloped a small medical college for Chinese women, which 
could have come to pass only under the genius of a woman 
like Dr. Margaret Polk, Miss Bennett was its most ardent 
advocate and supporter. From a human standpoint it was 
not possible to make a worth-while Medical School with so 
little equipment, but in spite of limitations the little school 
sent out a few excellent Chinese women doctors. But the 
China Medical Association, imder the fostering care of the 
Rockefeller Foundation, raised the standards of Medical 
schools and the discontinuance of this small plant was 
inevitable. While the question was pending the faculty 
and students of the Mary Black Hospital and Medical 
School were, drawn into the World War service and sta- 
tioned in Siberia to care for the sick and wounded sol- 
diers. When Miss Bennett and the Foreign Secretary 
visited the Orient in 19 16 they were greatly moved by 
the knowledge they gained of the physical suffering of 
the Chinese women because of the seclusion and hard- 
ships of their lives. They realized there was need of a 
larger woman's medical school than was possible at Soo- 
chow or than any one denomination could maintain. There 
were but three medical schools in China to prepare Chi- 
nese women doctors, who alone can serve women — one in 
Peking, another in Canton, and this small one at Soochow. 
As Miss Bennett thought of "the women of China who are 
such great physical sufferers" the vision of a great medical 
school, owned and administered by cooperating woman's 
boards in Central China, was given her. Again she was 
"driven by the Spirit," as in the establishment of the Train- 
ing School, and she returned to America, declaring: "There 
is no greater need on any field, home or foreign, than that 
of a Woman's Medical School at Shanghai." The China 



HER LIFE WORK 227 

Mission also saw this ''great and effectual door" of service, 
and memorialized the Woman's Missionary Council to move 
the Medical School from Soochow to Shanghai, where 
faculty facilities are larger. 

At the annual meeting of the Council in 191 7 the women 
were so moved by Miss Bennett's appeals they determined 
to follow her leading and unanimously voted to move the 
Medical School from Soochow to Shanghai and enlarge it 
so as to meet the required standards. They authorized the 
President and Foreign Secretary to seek the cooperation of 
other women's boards working in East Central China and to 
provide for the continuance of the name "Mary Black" in 
connection with the new institution. 

When Dr. Hattie Love, whose able, consecrated service 
had made the efficiency of the Soochow Medical School so 
outstanding, knew of this larger program, she gave the 
women of the Council this picture of the field into which 
they were entering: 

"The Union Woman's Medical College of Shanghai 
will be a unique work in China. No other mission, 
nor even the Chinese government, is doing a similar 
work — that is, teaching medicine in English to Chinese 
women. Furthermore, this will be the only woman's 
medical college in Central China, with its eight provinces 
and roughly estimated population of 226,000,000 — half 
the entire population of China. The Church in this 
one institution will have the unparalleled opportunity 
and unprecedented privilege of influencing these 226,- 
000,000 people for Christianity. If not grasped now, 
we venture to say that within ten years this opportunity 
will have passed forever from the hands of the Church." 

This brief sketch of Miss Bennett's leading and the loyal 
following of those who came tO' her In her "heritage of 
leadership" cannot picture the labor involved in carrying to 
fruition this large vision of service. There were days of 
timid approach to other boards of missions ; there were days 



228 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

when the way seemed utterly blocked by unsympathetic 
spirits. Only those who have inaugurated any union enter- 
prise can understand the difficulties, the test of patience, the 
test of obedience, that those who lead must endure. The rec- 
ords show that Miss Bennett and Miss Howell made three 
and five visits to New York a year to persuade other boards 
to join in this high fellowship; there were also visits to 
formulate plans and to meet legal and technical difficulties. 
They do not show how this woman, upon whom the Lord 
had placed responsibility of doing great things for him and 
his Chinese children, waited before him for guidance, for 
wisdom, for victory. Mrs. H. W. Peabody, whose loyal sup- 
port and skill in service helped lead the other denomination- 
al forces in this vision divine, tells how he answered Miss 
Bennett's faith: 

"This enterprise was one very near and dear to Miss 
Bennett's heart. Her far vision saw the value of such 
a high-grade medical school located in Shanghai; and 
when the Soochow Medical School of the Woman's 
Board of the Southern Methodist Church was discon- 
tinued, it was with the hope that an interdenominational 
school might be established at an early date. 

"The difficulties, however, were not easily surmount- 
ed. The first attempt to secure cooperation of the 
various Boards working in Eastern and Central China 
was defeated. This proved a great disappointment to 
Miss Bennett and those who were associated with her 
on the committee for the establishment of this Med- 
ical School for Women. 

"Year after year passed. Each attempt to proceed 
seemed blocked. There was objection to a school for 
women. Certain men felt tliat there should be a med- 
ical school for men and women. Miss Bennett, while 
extremely broad in her views, with others felt that it 
would be a long time before conservative Chinese fam- 
ilies would be willing to send their daughters to a mixed 
school. They felt also that there were conditions which 
must be changed before such association would be 
desirable. 

"At last, after years of prayer and effort, the crisis 



HER LIFE WORK 229 

came. At a meeting where the various Boards had 
come for consultation again objections were raised by 
certain men who were opposed to the women's inde- 
pendent action. Dear Miss Bennett had been so patient 
and persistent and prayerful that the disappointment 
was very great. After the men had left the meeting, sup- 
posing they had again blocked the plan of the women, 
a little group realized there had been no adjournment 
and they could continue in prayer. A wonderful meet- 
ing followed, continuing until six o'clock. The meet- 
ing then adjourned to the next morning, the delegates 
deciding to remain over and again seek God's guidance 
through a night of prayer. With the morning light 
came. 

"The Woman's Union Missionary Society, first in the 
field of women's work, was ready to cooperate. This 
society held a very valuable property in the Chinese 
city known as the Margaret Williamson Hospital. The 
location was an ideal one. The hospital was the largest 
women's hospital in China with an honorable record 
through many years. At the close of the prayer service 
suddenly one of the officers of the Woman's Union 
Missionary Society said : 'Would you like our hospital 
as a foundation for this medical college?' There was 
a breathless hush. Nothing could be so desirable. 
Nothing could have been more unexpected, since this 
institution was one of the greatest and dearest to the 
heart of the women who had founded it. Miss Ben- 
nett's face lighted with joy at the very thought, and all 
were impressed with the presence of the Holy Spirit, 
w'ho was guiding in this work, making it possible to do 
the impossible. 

"Again the women prayed in that upper room at 25 
Madison Avenue, New York City. Above the roar of 
the city with its great human interests God was working 
out his plan. The answer came in due time from the 
Board of the Woman's Union Missionary Society. 
There were some disappointments, and Boards which we 
had hoped might be included were not able to come into 
this cooperative group, but four Boards united : The 
Woman's Union Missionary Society, the Woman's 
Board of the Southern Methodist Church, the Woman's 
American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, and the 
Woman's Society of the Reformed Church in America. 

"Together they planned and continued in prayer. 



230 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Years passed, and dear Miss Bennett entered into her 
reward, but with her constantly in mind the Httle group 
has gone on planning until, September, 1924, the college 
became a reality. 

"A wonderful faculty has been brought together, 
the college is established as an 'A-Grade' institution, 
the entering class numbering six pioneer, prepared 
women students. The buildings are rising on the land 
belonging to the Woman's Union Missionary Society. 
A Nurses' Home was given by the Woman's Board of 
the Baptist Church. The great central main building, 
named in honor of Miss Bennett, furnishes classrooms, 
laboratories, and clinic offices. The residence 'Steven- 
side' is to be enlarged. A dormitory for medical stu- 
dents is completed, and money is in hand for the first 
unit of the hospital. 

"In these days of financial strain for mission boards 
it is little less than a miracle that these plans have 
worked out and this progress has been made. The gift 
from the Woman's Union Missionary Society is made 
on condition that this school remain a school for 
women, Christian, evangelical, and missionary. In the 
summer of 1924 articles of incorporation were taken 
out in the District of Columbia wuth a Board of Trus- 
tees responsible for the institution. 

"Through all the days of anxiety, the blessed answer 
to prayer, the wonder at God's work, and the rejoicing 
over faculty and students, we have been conscious of 
dear Miss Bennett's pioneer effort, of her faithful, per- 
sistent loyalty to her vision. It is still necessary that 
we have faith and courage, for there are still difficulties, 
still many great and pressing needs if this institution is 
to be all that we have hoped ; but believing in God, lov- 
ing China and her women and children, and remember- 
ing the faith and works of Belle Bennett, we shall not 
fail." 

The name of her whose obedience to the heavenly vision 
gave the Woman's Christian Medical College to China will 
for all time be identified with the institution in the beautiful 
memorial. Belle H. Bennett Clinical Building, which is re- 
garded as the best of its kind in China outside of the 
Rockefeller buildings in Peking. It was dedicated in No- 
vember, 1925, eight years after God spoke to her through 



HER LIFE WORK 231 

the suffering of Chinese women. This beautiful memorial 
to her work for China rises by the side of others whose co- 
operation in establishing this great institution made pos- 
sible the fulfillment of the Christ's world-embracing prayer 
uttered two thousand years ago: "Sanctify them also that 
believe on me . . . tlmt they may all he one . . . that the 
world may know that thou didst send me." 



CHAPTER XIII 

STRUGGLING FOR CHURCH SUFFRAGE 

Nineteen hundred and six was an epoch-making period 
in the history of Southern Methodist folk, for it was then 
the women discovered their limited relation to the Church. 
For twenty-eight years one group had wrought marvelously 
for women and children in foreign lands while another 
group (many of them the same women) had pioneered in 
organized home missions, content in fulfilling the great com- 
mission of the Christ through the Methodist Episcopal 
Church, South. But when the Associated Press of America 
sent abroad the statement that the General Conference of 
1906 had been instructed to unite these two organizations, 
there were more than a hundred thousand surprised Meth- 
odist women in the South. Still greater was their surprise 
when they found that the men of the Church could legis- 
late concerning the women's work, but that the women had 
neither voice nor vote in the great lawmaking body that 
determined what they might do and the method of doing 
it. The Woman's Board of Home Missions was in an- 
nual session when the announcement was made and prompt- 
ly this resolution, offered by two of the most conservative 
members, was unanimously adopted: 

"Resolved, That the President and General Secre- 
tary are hereby requested to attend the General Con- 
ference in Birmingham and are given full power to 
act for the Woman's Board of Home Missions in pro- 
moting its interests." 

When Miss Bennett and Mrs. MacDonell, President and 
General Secretary of the Home Board, and Mrs. A. W. 
Wilson and Mrs. J. B. Cobb, Vice President and Associate 
Secretary of the Foreign Board, met in Birmingham, they 

(232) 



HER LIFE WORK 233 

found the Episcopal Address to the General Conference had 
recommended: 

"The union of the Woman's Home and Foreign 
Missionary Societies of the Methodist Episcopal 
Church, South, the President, Vice President, and 
Board of Managers of this unified society to be nomi- 
nated by the Committee on Missions of the General 
Conference, as in the case of the members of the Board ; 
the Secretaries of this Woman's Missionary Society, one 
for the Home and one for the Foreign Department, re- 
spectively, to be elected by the Board of Managers." 

These four officials were not personally averse to a 
union of the societies if it could be affected without loss of 
spirit and momentum, but it was only just that the women 
whose zeal and love made the work possible should be given 
the privilege and right of determining the matter. There 
was no way to reason with the General Conference, as none 
but the delegated members (men only at that time) had 
tlie privilege of speaking on the floor, except in extreme 
cases by special vote of the body. Even the Committee 
on Missions, where the recommendation of the Bishops was 
considered, was not open to women. 

The four women representing the woman's organizations 
conferred with men in the General Conference with whom 
they had acquaintance, but lobbying was a new role and 
at best a mean way to demand justice for worthy promoters 
of great enterprises. The sympathy of Dr. Young J. Allen, 
the venerable missionary from China, was stirred by the 
distress of the representatives of the women's boards, and 
he volunteered to convey anything they wished to every 
member of the Conference if it should be printed. It was 
agreed that Miss Bennett and Mrs. MacDonell should write 
a protest, thrown together In striking dodger form, and 
Dr. Allen and IMrs. Cobb would have it printed and dis- 
tributed. There was need of haste, for the report from the 
Committee on Missions might come at any hour. The 



234 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

scribes worked vigorously that night in preparing this 
dodger, when the electric lights went out in their room and 
it was impossible to have them renewed. In their dilemma 
they turned to the window where the moonlight from out- 
side shone in bright rays, and by the light of the moon the 
protest was finished and made ready for the printer. Long 
before breakfast next morning Mrs. Cobb called for the 
manuscript, and with Dr. Allen's aid committed it to the 
printer for speedy work. It was finished and placed in the 
hands of every member of the General Conference that 
day. 

The Committee on Missions could not understand a 
memorial from the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society, 
concerning Scarritt Bible and Training School, and Miss 
Bennett was requested to explain the measure. At the 
given hour she and Mrs. MacDonell knocked on the door 
of the committee room; they were notified to wait outside 
until the memorial was up for discussion. When they were 
called Miss Bennett stood before the committee answering 
questions and giving information, and, having made the 
meaning clear, "the ladies were excused." For the larger 
question of the union of the societies none of the four repre- 
sentatives were given a hearing before the committee, 
though socially, outside of that room, every courtesy and 
gentle consideration was extended. In this day of national 
and Church enfranchisement of woman, it is difficult to 
visualize that situation at Birmingham in 1906. The re- 
action of this effort to force constitutional changes upon the 
women, and the result of the vigorous protest of their lead- 
ers, is interestingly recited in Miss Bennett's annual mes- 
sage to the Woman's Board of Home Missions at the first 
meeting after the General Conference: 

"Knowing that legislation concerning the organized 
work of the women of the Church was being discussed 
by some of the best and most progressive members of 



HER LIFE WORK 235 

the General Conference, and knowing also that women 
had neither representation nor voice in that governing 
body of our Church, this Board delegated the Presi- 
dent and the General Secretary to attend the meeting 
at Birmingham and, as far as possible, protect the con- 
stitutional rights and privileges of the Woman's Home 
Mission Society. 

"The questions under consideration in the committee 
room affecting the work of the women were the ad- 
visability of uniting the Woman's Home and Foreign 
Missionary Societies and the relation which the united 
society would sustain to the General Board of Missions, 
Overorganization, contention between auxiliaries, and 
a closer correlation of all the missionary forces of the 
Church were the reasons assigned for the changes de- 
sired. 

"We were of one mind with the brethren on the sub- 
ject of too many organizations, and had long been fully 
persuaded that a closer relation of all the Boards con- 
trolling departments of Church work was not only de- 
sirable but imperative if the best results were to be ob- 
tained. But how to diminish the number of organiza- 
tions, or how under our present policy to effect closer 
cooperation without subordinating one Board to an- 
other and thereby denying to the women of the Church 
administrative influence in the splendid work they had 
built up and developed was a problem no one seemed 
able to solve. 

"To unite the Woman's Home and the Foreign Mis- 
sionary Societies would seem to a superficial student of 
the two organizations and their work an easy matter; 
but difficulties innumxcrable present themselves to one 
who has close acquaintance with the many and varied 
departments of each and who has had a personal re- 
sponsibility for the selection of leaders, from the auxil- 
iary officers to Conference and Executive Board mem- 
bers, all of whom must be women who can give time, 
strength, and money without remuneration. We made 
no objection to union, however, provided it could be 
satisfactorily done, but we persistently claimed that 
women who composed the two societies ought to have 
a right to say in their conference meetings whether 
they desired such a union. 

"As a natural, reasonable and righteous plan for a 
closer correlation of all the missionary work of the 



236 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Church, we suggested a General Board or Council, com- 
posed equally of men and women, whose duty it should 
be to administer on all the missionary affairs of the 
Church ; and, believing that this would meet with the ap- 
proval of this body, we sent a memorial to that effect 
from the Woman's Home Mission Society, Such 
measures, however, were so foreign to the time-honored 
policy of Methodism that the mere formal announce- 
ment of the bill met with a good-humored ripple of 
laughter. . . . 

''While no action was taken by the General Confer- 
ence affecting this body or the society it represents 
during this quadrennium, a committee of thirteen was 
appointed to consider and present to the General Con- 
ference of 1910 some definite and workable plan for a 
closer correlation of the missionary forces of the 
Church, This commission is composed of nine men and 
four women, the women to be the Presidents and Gen- 
eral Secretaries of the Woman's Home and Foreign 
Missionary Societies." 

A spirit of restlessness among the women, especially those 
to whom leadership in Conferences and Boards had been 
committed, was very great in the days following the General 
Conference. It was not easy to keep up the esprit de corps 
in an organization which found itself so seriously handi- 
capped as the action of that great lawmaking body revealed. 
In many sections the women were asking if there could not 
be some change whereby a great part of the Church might 
have fair dealing. Miss Bennett had always believed in 
the perfect equality of man and woman and from earliest 
youth had been an advocate of political suffrage, but had 
refrained from pressing this conviction among the mis- 
sionary women, that she might not create antagonism to the 
specific work of the Missionary Society, The question of 
Church suffrage had been thrust upon the women by the 
General Conference of igo6, and in 1909 she came to the 
Board meeting, after earnest prayer for guidance and wis- 
dom, with this challenging message: 



HER LIFE WORK 237 

"As knowledge and resonsibility have increased so 
have love and liberality of the women, and for the past 
two years these two women's societies, representing less 
than one-tenth of tlie women of the Church, have given 
annually about four hundred thousand dollars, a sum 
equal to nearly two-thirds of the total amount given by 
the entire membership of the Church. . . . 

"If I know the minds of the missionary women 
throughout the field (and I think I do), any disturbance 
of the autonomy of the Woman's Missionary Societies, 
more especially any annulment of the administrative 
rights with which they have been vested in their Ex- 
ecutive Boards for the last thirty-two years, will bring 
about a disturbance of relationships in the Church such 
as Methodism has never known. It will so shake the 
loyalty and confidence of the women that the decrease 
in missionary collections will result in nothing short of 
disaster for the work at home and abroad. 

"Twenty years ago memorials were sent to the Gen- 
eral Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church 
asking for the removal of the restrictive law which 
prohibited women from being full lay members of the 
Church. Of course there was opposition, and some 
thoroughly honest opposition ; for no progressive move- 
ment has ever had the sanction of the entire people. 
But the question was remanded to the Conferences for 
a vote, according to the law, and the demand was grant- 
ed by a good majority. No great calamity has befallen 
either men or women because of this enlargement of 
woman's duties and liberties, and by every token the 
Lord still loves and leads that great division of his mili- 
tant Methodist army. At the last Annual Conference 
the Wesleyan Church of England remanded the same 
question to its Synods, with the prospect of an over- 
whelming affirmative vote. 

"Has not the fullness of God's time come for this 
same enlargement of the rights and privileges of the 
w^omen of the Southern Methodist Church? Have we 
not manifested both our ability and our readiness for 
the responsibility of full lay membership of the Church? 
Shall we not seek it? All over the land in local Church 
affairs the pastors, assisted by a few godly women, are 
doing the official work of the Churches, while legal offi- 
cers give their time and strength to exacting private or 
public business. Is this right or wise? If these same 



238 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

women were associated in office with the men by the 
law of the Church, would they not almost surely win or 
provoke them to a larger interest in Church affairs as 
they do in home affairs? 

"Is it not also a very evident fact that the active 
participation of the women in the Church work through 
the missionary societies has brought to a larger number 
of women than men a broader knowledge of the whole 
Church life, its organization, management, institutions, 
and trends of thought? Has it not done for them, in 
fact, what it is hoped the Laymen's Movement and the 
Methodist Brotherhood will do for the men? Can we 
doubt that this knowledge and its accompanying sense 
of responsibility have developed the women to the point 
that they are fitted for legal representation not only on 
the Quarterly Conference, but in the higher Confer- 
ences, wherever and in whatever capacity the laymen 
have a place and part ? 

"The women of this Board are the leaders of the 
great body of women who make up the auxiliaries in 
the individual Churches, These women expect you to 
act for them in every forward movement. To you is 
left not only their openly avowed sentiments or convic- 
tions, but to you is left the interpretation of that larger 
and deeper inner life which they have not formulated in 
words or proclaimed in action. This is what leadership 
means. 

"The great apostle in his letter to the Churches of 
Galatia says : 'There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there 
can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and 
female ; for ye are one in Christ Jesus !" May the Spirit 
of God move this Board to send a memorial, signed by 
its every member, to the coming General Conference, 
urging that the women of the Church be granted all the 
rights and privileges of the laity of the Methodist Epis- 
copal Church, South!" 

This message was delivered in Savannah, Ga., where con- 
servatism concerning women's spheres of activity was most 
marked, and it could not fail to startle the local Church. 
Even some members of the Board who resented the limita- 
tions placed on woman's relation to the Church were not 
yet convinced that women wanted any "rights." But the 



HER LIFE WORK 239 

great majority of the women gave serious thought to the 
subject, and soon ralHed to Miss Bennett's recommendation 
and were ready to concur in the following memorial, which 
would go to the General Conference of 19 10: 

"To the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal 
Church, South, from the Woman's Board of Missions in An- 
nual Session at Savannah, Ga. 

"Dear Fathers and Brethren : Believing that the full- 
ness of God's time has come for the more than half 
million women of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
South, to have larger freedom in the ever-widening 
work of the Church that they may help to hasten more 
surely and speedily the coming of the kingdom of God, 
we respectfully petition that as an act of justice you 
will at this session of the General Conference take the 
needed action to secure for the women of the Church 
the full rights and privileges of the laity." 

The vote, which was taken by roll call, was twenty-nine 
for the measure and six against it. Every affirmative voter 
realized she had committed herself to an unpopular measure 
and that it would require labor and self-denial and loss of 
popularity on the part of the women to persuade the men of 
the next General Conference to support it. The work of 
executing the plans projected for the furtherance of this 
movement was committed to Mrs. Luke Johnson, of 
Georgia. There were only seven months between this action 
of the Board and the General Conference, so the opportu- 
nity for cultivating the Methodist Church in this ethical and 
just cause was too limited to have hoped for its carriage. 
Of Mrs. Johnson's work in its behalf Miss Bennett said: 

"Her splendid leadership and untiring energy have 
put the cause set forth in the memorial so clearly before 
the Church that every reading man and woman has had 
an opportunity to get an intelligent conception of the 
great principle involved and of the cause as it affects 
the membership and work of the Church. All of this 
has been accomplished in an incredibly short space of 
time. To have gotten as she has done a patient brother- 



240 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

ly hearing from so large a majority of our brethren in 
the ministry on the subject involving denominational 
ethics, Church law, and the legal recognition of woman's 
rights to a place in the governing councils of the 
Church, is an unmistakable evidence of the growth of 
that spirit which the Christ commended when he said : 
*If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; 
and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make 
you free.' " 

There was not time for sufficient cultivation of the 
Church, and funds for the financial support of the move- 
ment were not adequately provided. With these handicaps, 
few promoters of the memorial dared hope it would pass on 
its first presentation. Miss Bennett's message to the Board 
in 1 910, a few weeks prior to the General Conference, pre- 
pared the women for defeat: 

"To many of us the matter o£ supreme importance 
during these months has been the reception and discus- 
sion by the Church at large of the memorial from the 
Board to the approaching General Conference, asking 
that the rights of the laity be granted to the women of 
the Church. To my mind no truer missionary measure 
has ever emanated from or claimed the attention of 
our Methodism. By every token it is to us another 
illuminating expression of the gospel message which 
our risen Lord commissioned his disciples to proclaim 
to all the world. 

"Shrinking from opposition and public contest, we 
have followed our Leader afar off in this, have been slow 
of heart, and unable to bear the 'yet many things' he 
would have said to us ; but now that we have obeyed his 
command to 'go forward,' we may not cease nor abate 
any effort until this work of righteousness is accom- 
plished. 

"That the work of education must continue for the 
next four years none of us can doubt. There are yet 
among us and of us many men and women to whom 
the 'traditions of men have made the Word of God of 
none effect,' and at every mention of a change or ad- 
vance movement of the Church they shrink back in blind 
terror, full of a superstitious fear of some awful calam- 



HER LIFE WORK 241 

ity as a divine judgment. There are also many of our 
devoted missionary workers into whose lives the organ- 
ized societies have put so much of spiritual, mental, and 
social development (to be gotten nowhere else in the 
Church) that the fear, and a reasonable one, of being 
deprived of this form of religious life and service pre- 
vents them from seeing that the Missionary Societies 
are only methods of work, while the memorial for equal 
lay representation for women involves a great principle, 
and one that lies at the very basis of individual liberty. 
'For freedom did Christ set us free.' The Memorial 
will go to the General Conference; and as we have 
neither vote nor voice in that lawmaking body, the issue 
must remain with our brethren. 

"Many of the best and truest men in the General 
Conference and in the great Church behind them are 
advocates of the cause for which the Memorial stands; 
and we must believe that every member of that body, 
whether he be for it or against it, desires as earnestly as 
we do to know and do God's will. The victory will be 
won not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of 
the living God." 

Few scenes in the General Conference have been more 
dramatic than that presented by the hundreds of memorials 
from the Woman's Board of Home Missions, Conference 
Woman's Home Mission Societies, district meetings, and 
auxiliaries praying for the "rights and privileges of the 
laity for the women of the Church." Every session v^as 
besieged with these memorials, until it was determined no 
more should be admitted from the floor but should go direct 
to the Committee on Revisals, to which this subject was 
referred. As evidence of the educative work of the Laity 
Rights Campaign of the preceding months were the invita- 
tions extended to the interested women to attend the ses- 
sions of the Committees on Missions and Revisals; it was 
in striking contrast to the preceding General Conference. A 
courteous hearing also was given to the home mission lead- 
ers who spoke for the Memorials before the Committee on 
Revisals. The report of the findings of the committee 
16 



242 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

provoked much discussion, for there were a number of men 
who favored the memorial, and by vote of the General 
Conference Miss Bennett was invited to speak to it. To 
speak without preparation when it was the first time in the 
history of the Church a woman's voice had been heard in a 
session of the General Conference was the supreme test of 
her zeal and faith in the righteousness of the cause. Be- 
cause she believed in it as a right and just measure she dared 
speak even though she knew it was the most unsympathetic 
audience she had ever faced. The measure was over- 
whelmingly lost, but the women under her valiant general- 
ship had put up a most splendid battle, and they never 
doubted the final outcome even in the throes of the first dis- 
appointment ; they 

"Never dreamed though right was worsted, wrong 
would triumph, 
Held we fall to rise, are baffled to fight better." 

Let no one suppose that the opposition of the leaders of 
the Church to this movement was static; it was aggressive, 
and in every section there were some women who suflfered 
ridicule, censure, and contempt. The brunt of condemna- 
tion, however, fell upon Miss Bennett, for in their judgment 
it was she who had put this unladylike feminist idea into the 
heads of the women. Prior to the Board meeting in Sa- 
vannah in 1909, she was the most highly appreciated woman 
in the Church ; bishops, preachers. Church officials honored 
her on all occasions, many of them conferring with her 
frequently concerning weighty affairs of the Church. Her 
influence seemed limitless. The extent of their disapproval 
of her leadership in this suffrage movement was revealed 
when the program for the Fourth Ecumenical Methodist 
Conference to be held at Toronto was in the making. In 
April, 191 1, she was notified that she was on the program to 
speak on "Woman and Missions," but before her letter of 



HER LIFE WORK 243 

acceptance was written a second communication announced 
that only delegates could speak before the Conference and 
the Southern Methodist Bishops had indicated that she had 
not been appointed ; therefore the invitation was withdrawn. 
This was a unique experience for Belle H. Bennett, but 
it was easy to understand why she had thus been discredited 
in Methodist circles. A second communication was received 
as follows: 

"August 29, 191 1. 
"Miss Belle H. Bennett, Richmond, Ky. 

*'Dear Miss Bennett: At its recent meeting at Atlan- 
tic City, the Executive Committee appointed you to de- 
liver the first invited address on 'Woman and Missions,' 
at the second session, tenth day, Friday, October 13, of 
the Fourth Ecumenical Methodist Conference. It is 
indeed a great pleasure to me to make this notification. 
The committee was assured that your appointment as 
a delegate would be made, and so it is my pleasure again 
to ask you to accept. I trust nothing has occurred to 
prevent your prompt acceptance. 

"Very sincerely, H. K. Carroll." 

Miss Bennett's personal answer to this communication in 
the light of subsequent history is a document of interest: 

"Dr. H. K. Carroll, 150 Fifth Avenue, New York City. 

"My Dear Dr. Carroll: I greatly appreciate the per- 
sonal note in your last communication. I must, how- 
ever, wait until I am notified by the College of Bishops 
of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, that I have 
been appointed a delegate to the Ecumenical Methodist 
Conference before I can either accept or decline the 
appointment for an address. The situation is interest- 
ing to say the least ! 

"Very sincerely, Belle H. Bennett." 

Miss Bennett's marvelous spirit of love and patience and 
continuous courtesy to those whose zeal would punish her 
for obedience to what she recognized as heaven-inspired re- 
sponsibility was most noteworthy. The source of her 



244 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"quietness and confidence" is revealed in this letter to Mrs. 
R. L. Kirkwood, dated September 9, 191 1: 

"Your good comforting letter came yesterday. I have 
realized day by day the truth of all you say. I have 
wondered at the measure of peace and joy God has 
given me or rather that I have been willing to receive 
from him during the past two months. As I wrote you 
in my last, I claimed the fifth and sixth verses of the 
37th Psalm in the beginning of our movement for a 
larger place in the Church for women, and I know 
in whom I have believed and that he will not fail to 
keep until that day. Quite recently a friend, who for 
many years has been one of God's chosen, and a woman 
of prevailing prayer, wrote me that she had claimed the 
i8th Psalm for me. Read it, and you will see what a 
great claim it is. 

"The latest development in connection with the To- 
ronto drama is a recent letter from Dr. Carroll, of New 
York, announcing that I am on the program for a ten 
minutes' address on 'Women and Missions,' he having 
been assured by the Southern contingent of the Program 
Committee that I would be a delegate. I promptly 
wrote him that I could neither accept nor decline until 
I had been notified by the College of Bishops that I was 
a delegate. The matter is amusing as well as interest- 
ing." 

It seemed so fitting and necessary that Miss Bennett 
should represent the women of the Southern Methodist 
Church at the great Ecumenical Methodist Conference that 
the Executive Committee of the Woman's Missionary Coun- 
cil sent a dignified request to the College of Bishops asking 
for her appointment as a delegate, but no response was 
made. Several women were named as delegates who were 
known to oppose the "Laity Rights" memorial, and to one 
was given, by the Bishops, the place on the program as- 
signed to Miss Bennett, but she promptly declined the honor. 
On October 5 Miss Bennett wrote as follows to Mrs. George 
Call: 



HER LIFE WORK 245 

'^My Dear Sister: I do not go to Toronto; the College 
of Bishops has never notified me that I am their ap- 
pointed delegate, and I have too much regard for my- 
self, the Woman's Council, and the women of Method- 
ism generally to present myself at the Ecumenical with- 
out the proper credentials. I note, as do the Church 
people generally, that I am published on the program 
far and wide as one of the women from the Western 
Division who will take part in the meeting. I was also 
notified by Dr. Carroll, Secretary of the Program Com- 
mittee, about the first of September that I was again 
nominated by the Southern representatives, who as- 
sured him that I would be the delegate, but, as I have 
said before, I have received no notification from the 
College of Bishops to that effect and, therefore, do not 
go- 
On the morning of October 6, the third day of the 
meeting at Toronto a telegram, signed by the Secretary of 
the College of Bishops, was placed in Miss Bennett's hand, 
saying: "The Bishops have appointed you delegate to the 
Ecumenical." She immediately wired to friends in Nash- 
ville and Kansas City to inquire what they considered her 
duty. The friends were too deeply interested in the situa- 
tion to be safe advisers, and in turn they submitted the in- 
quiry to disinterested parties whose judgment was trust- 
worthy. The consensus of opinion was that, under the cir- 
cumstances, she would violate no obligation by refraining 
from accepting the appointment. Throughout this remark- 
able struggle she assumed that her adversaries as honestly 
believed they were doing the right thing as she knew she 
was, and it lifted her above personal animosities. That she 
suffered is evidenced in this letter of March 19, 19 12, to 
her fellow worker, Mrs. R. W. MacDonell: 

"Your letter of this morning so expressed my feeling 
of depression that it actually relieved the tension and 
cheered me up for the time being. Only yesterday I 
said to my sister-in-law, Mrs. James Bennett : T am try- 
ing to see clearly my duty about giving up the office I 



246 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

hold in the Missionary Society. I feel as if I had 
fought with beasts at Ephesus this year; I can't keep 
it up.' But, dear heart, neither you nor I have a right 
to retire until we force the Church to put a full share of 
responsibility for its conduct and development on the 
women. Whether the majority of them want it or not, 
they ought to be compelled to bear it. 

"It is the compelling, overriding action of men who 
as honestly believe they are doing the right thing, the 
fair thing, as we do not that troubles. They are not 
wholly to blame in believing that women are inherently 
inferior and incapable — women believe and act on that 
supposition themselves, and why should men think and 
treat them otherwise? We are in a hard pioneer field, 
and I have never been in any other kind until the last 
few years. I have never labored under any fear for the 
growth of the work. I know that will continue, whether 
we live or die. Missions, home and foreign, are the 
center of a great world current which no man can stop 
or seriously hinder. My fear has been, and is still, for 
the loss to the Church (universal) itself, through a 
weak and irresponsible womanhood. Its a great human 
body with one side paralyzed. Arousing and interest- 
ing the women at home has been the best form of mis- 
sion work we have done." 

Miss Bennett v^^as convinced that the thrusting of the 
woman question upon the Church by the General Confer- 
ence of 1906 was God's leading to awaken a great body of 
women in the South to the religious teaching of Christian 
Scriptures concerning the essential equality of man and 
woman. "Both were created in God's image and to both 
God came in the flesh as Jesus Christ," she repeatedly af- 
firmed in her public utterances. Certain paragraphs of 
these speeches in behalf of the Laity Rights movement have 
been preserved which show how deeply religious she con- 
sidered the subject, among them the following: 

"Does it seem strange and unwomanly that these 
women standing where they do should believe that the 
world needs their strength and wisdom, united and com- 
bined with the strength and wisdom of its best man- 
hood, to guide and govern home and Church and State? 



HER LIFE WORK 2^7 

"Woman's right to give birth to the race, to labor for 
it, and in some measure to shape its development has 
so far seemed an inalienable right : and to maintain that 
right in its entirety, preparing herself — mind, soul, and 
body — for the high and holy calling is the cause for 
which she is contending. 

"The so-called world-wide movement for the libera- 
tion and uplift of woman is distinctly and insistently the 
result of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the operation 
of tlie Holy Spirit upon the hearts of men. From the 
time when its divine Founder rebuked in scathing terms 
the teachings of the scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites 
of Judaism, the dominant note of Christianity, even in 
its lowest forms, has been a note of liberty. A Christian 
civilization which does not generate and develop a spirit 
of individual, civil, and religious liberty is impossible." 

When the first memorial for laity rights was lost by 
vote of the General Conference, the women promptly re- 
organized for a second campaign. Continuous agitation of 
the subject by splendid leaflets and bulletins won many to 
their standard. The General Conference vote in 1914 was 
especially interesting, as in their zeal the opponents pre- 
sented a woman to plead against woman's suffrage in the 
Church. Women on both sides of the question were in- 
vited to speak before the Committee on Revisals and on 
the Conference floor. While the measure was again lost, 
there was very evident growth of sentiment in its favor. 

A third time Miss Bennett rallied the Church forces for 
another effort to get fair dealing for its womanhood. Dur- 
ing the twelve years that the question of woman suffrage 
was before the Church, a splendid educational program was 
conducted, especially in the last quadrennium, through the 
brilliant Laity Rights Bulletin, edited by Miss Estelle Has- 
kin. The cost of financing this continuous battle was borne 
by personal donations; the money of the missionary treas- 
ury was never touched. By 19 18 it was so apparent that 
world currents were moving toward national enfranchise- 



248 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

ment of women that the Church could not afford to stand 
against the laity rights measure. Woman's splendid 
achievement in the World War and her marked ability un- 
der responsibility had greatly changed man's mind concern- 
ing her power to grip and handle public interests. 

The General Conference in session in Atlanta, Ga., was 
ready to vote for laity rights, which the roll call showed, 
as it registered (May 14, 1918) 265 votes in favor and 57 
against the grant. When the Chairman of the Conference 
announced the measure carried, enthusiasm ran high on the 
Conference floor. The men rose from their seats, bowed 
and waved greetings to the women in the galleries who had 
striven these many years for this just cause. The women 
stood en masse and bowed to the men in recognition of the 
victory won by their votes. 

Miss Bennett was conspicuous by her absence from the 
victorious group at that hour. All the long years of her 
leadership she had suffered opposition by serving impopu- 
lar causes which seemed forlorn hopes when she espoused 
them. Like other great leaders she had grown "to know 
that real joy lies in the battle and not in the victory." Her 
knowledge of constitutional Church law made her realize 
the hardest part of this battle was ahead. Friends rushed 
to find her in the rear of the battalion whose movements she 
had directed more than a decade. When congratulations 
were showered upon her she raised her hands and said: 
"Don't ^vomen ! Don't ! We are not so foolish as to count 
the battle won. This matter must be remanded to the Con- 
ferences, where the greater struggle must begin !" And she 
was ready then and there to begin her plans for carrying the 
battle of the forty-odd Conferences which then constituted 
the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Before she left 
Atlanta, upon the adjournment of the General Conference, 
she issued a clarion call to arms through the Atlanta (Ga.) 
Constitution, of May 22, as follows: 



HER LIFE WORK 249 

Dr. Belle Bennett Sends Message to Women of 
Southern Methodism 

"The memorial and petitions presented by the women 
to the General Conference were referred to the proper 
committees and later reached the body for action. All 
the requests touching the missionary society were 
granted. 

"The memorial asking for full membership in the 
Church for women created perhaps the greatest interest 
and warmest discussion. 

"From the beginning, it was evident that a very large 
majority of the body was heartily in favor of granting 
laity rights to the women of the Cnurch. However, in 
a few days our committee was informed that some sharp 
opposition with regard to the form of the memorial 
and as to its full meaning had developed in the Commit- 
tee on Revisals, to which it had been referred. 

"On May 14 the measure came before the house, and, 
after less than thirty minutes' debate, was passed by 
an overwhelming majority, despite the fact that a 
'rider,' involving the constitution of the Board of Mis- 
sions, had been attached to it by the committee. When 
the chair announced that the measure was adopted, the 
enthusiasm of the men was so great that they rose from 
their seats, and, turning to the women in the galleries, 
waved hands and handkerchiefs, cheering with hearty, 
sympathetic approval. 

"The following morning, in a formal paper, the Col- 
lege of Bishops declared that the admittance of women 
to the councils of the Church was a constitutional ques- 
tion and could not be decided even by a two-thirds vote 
of the General Conference. The body immediately re- 
affirmed the action of the previous day, thereby 'over- 
ruling the bishop veto,' thus sending the matter down 
to the Annual Conferences for final decision. 

"By a resolution later in the session the bishops were 
requested to present the matter to all the Annual Con- 
ferences of Southern Methodism within the next twelve 
months. 

"A constitutional question thus referred to the Annual 
Conferences requires a two-thirds vote of all the mem- 
bers of all the Conferences to legalize the change. 

"Many prominent friends of the cause said that the 
*men so sincerely and earnestly desired to give the 
women full membership in the Church it was evident 



250 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

that it would pass the Annual Conferences by a large 
majority.' 

"While the women of the Council also believe that 
God's time has come for woman to assume her full 
responsibility in the Church, they realize that it means 
indefatigable and patient work on the part of the 
friends of the cause, both men and women, to clearly 
present the issue to the eight or nine thousand preach- 
ers and laymen who compose the Conferences and in 
whose hands, under God, rests the final decision. 

"My appeal to the Church now is for constant and 
united prayer that the Holy Spirit may guide and direct 
in all this work, and that through the long effort that 
has been made and the final result that will inevitably 
come, the spiritual life of the Church may be quickened 
and the name of Jesus, the Saviour and liberator of 
women, may be glorified until the kingdoms of this 
world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and his 
Christ." 

Skirmishes with forces near at hand are far more dlflfi- 
cult and deadly than the battles fought at long range. They 
were not easy maneuvers she set for the women to manage 
in the Conferences, but in these dozen years of warfare for 
justice and fair play enthusiastic recruits were won, of 
whom she wrote: 

"In this world-wide movement of women, for women, 

by women, the significant part is the new woman — new 
because schoolroom and college doors have been thrown 
wide open to her; new, because the law has made it 
possible for her to receive, obtain, and hold property; 
new, because the world has been opened to her; new, 
because, above all, a trained mind and the open Word 
of God have made the will of God a real and personal 
thing to her." 

In her eagerness for reports from the conferences, Miss 
Bennett wrote to Miss Howell at Jefferson City, Mo., while 
attending the Southwest Missouri Conference: 

"Please, please dear have some one wire me as soon 
as the 'Laity Rights' vote is taken. Mention the num- 



HER LIFE WORK 251 

ber voting on the affirmative and the number on the 
negative. I am, figuratively speaking, standing with 
mouth and eyes open night and day, waiting for these 
messages, always with a prayer in my heart, for / be- 
lieve that liberty in Church and State to the women of 
America means the uplift and evangelization of the non- 
ChristioM zt'omen in all the dark lands. I am standing 
in the trenches with Him, watching the Conferences go 
over the top!" 

The human side of this veteran leader is found in her 
account of one of these skirmishes at an Annual Conference 
in v^rhich she participated. The letter v^^as written Novem- 
ber 16, 19 1 8, to her Secretary, whose splendid help strength- 
ened and prolonged her active service for the Church: 

"To-day in the midst of driving rain but with a big 
delegation, at noon, the 'Laity Rights' vote was taken 
and 'went over the top' for us : 234 for and only 38 
against. We were overwhelmed with surprise, but suc- 
ceeded in conducting ourselves with dignified calmness, 
as if it were just what we had expected. Since then I 
have dined with a charming party of fellow Church 
women rejoicing in full Church membership in our 
minds. I have just gotten in through a driving rain, so 
grateful for ail blessings of the day — ^you one of the 
special, my precious deaconess." 

The victory for "Laity Rights" was won. To Miss Ben- 
nett it was a challenge for the Woman's Missionary Coun- 
cil to go forward with renewed zeal in obedience to the age- 
old commission of the Christ. Her address to the Coun- 
cil in 19 19 said: 

"Again, this good year 1918-19 will long be memor- 
able in the history of Southern Methodism as the time 
in which the Conferences of the Church, at home and 
abroad, by an overwhelming vote, gave women full 
membership in the Church. For seventy-five years they 
had served as its handmaidens, supported its institutions, 
and worshiped at its altars as minors. They had no 
voice in its councils and no lawful place in its Confer- 



252 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

ences. Appeal after appeal for justice and release from 
this bondage had been made to its great representative 
body, the General Conference, but only to receive a 
negative answer. To some among us, botli men and 
women, the waiting seemed long; but faith in Him who 
said, 'All power is given unto me,' never failed; and 
one year ago the splendid body of men that met in Gen- 
eral Conference at Atlanta, Ga., registered its vote in an 
affirmative answer to that long-continued appeal with 
an impetus that swept down through the Church, carry- 
ing with it a three- fourths vote from forty of the forty- 
five Conferences of the entire Church. 

"We sit together to-day in this Council for the first 
time with all the privileges and rights of laymen by 
reason of this legal membership in the Church whose 
name we have so long borne. Are we ready for these 
new opportunities and privileges ? Do our pulses quick- 
en and our hearts thrill with joy as we read again the 
great command that has been ringing down through the 
centuries, 'Go ye into all the world'? Go tO' the eight 
hundred million of the earth's inhabitants that still sit 
in heathen darkness, never having heard the gospel of 
Jesus Christ." 

Having won the battle for woman's full membership in 
the Church, this far-sighted woman realized the law would 
become a dead letter unless it should be followed by effort 
of the women themselves to promote the election of women 
to the various Conferences and governing bodies of the 
Church. Persistently she urged this upon the women. Her 
satisfaction when they were chosen was personal, as is 
shown in this letter to Mrs. W. H. Pemberton: 

"You don't know how pleased I am that Dr. Miller 
and the brethren were good enough to recognize the 
eternal fitness of things and elect you as a delegate to 
the Annual Conference. Of course my feelings would 
have been hurt if you hadn't let me know; so on your 
life, don't you fail to be there, and pray, sing, or — 
preach, whatever the brethren ask you to do. I know 
we can trust your judgment and feel you will do, in a 
dignified way, whatever is required of you." 



HER LIFE WORK 253 

As General Conference approached she felt great concern 
that the women would be given a large representation. That 
she recognized the necessity of special effort to accomplish 
this measure was indicated by this letter to Mrs. F. F. 
Stephens, dated June 22, 192 1 : 

"Now, to another important matter. While in Nash- 
ville, Miss Howell and Miss Haskin and I discussed at 
length the question as how best to get a Laity Commit- 
tee in the Church that would work out a plan by which 
we could approach every Annual Conference with the 
request that a proportionate number of women be sent 
to the General Conference. We all know it is a delicate 
matter and must be wisely and carefully handled. The 
men naturally feel honored at being sent to the General 
Conference, though many of them do not go, or re- 
main more than a few days. I believe that almost, per- 
haps every, Conference will send one woman, but the 
chances are that many women will be nominated and 
elected because of wealth, social position, or some 
special courtesy or personal kindness to a presiding 
elder or Church leader. 

"A letter from Mrs. Piggott says : 'I am writing to the 
presiding elders in my Conference whom I know well ; 
and after a meeting in Louisville next week, I shall 
know the best course to pursue with some of the others. 
I think now, I shall ask that we decide on one or two 
representative women, and ask key women in each 
district to approach their influential lay delegates and 
pastors, with regard to the election of these special 
women. Each District Secretary and Conference officer 
knows who the delegates from her district are, and the 
Conference officers are pretty well distributed in our 
districts ; so I think the plan will work for us very 
well' 

"I think Mrs. Piggott will do this wisely and well 
in her Conference, but she is a superior woman. Please, 
please think and pray over this matter, and let me know 
if you can think of any plan that might help and not 
hinder." 

In accordance with the expectation of the Church, the 
Kentucky Conference honored itself by electing Miss Ben- 



254 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

nett to membership in the General Conference of 1922 on its 
first ballot for lay representation. For eight months Miss 
Bennett looked forward to this meeting, full of plans for 
the ongoing of the Church. But God had other work for 
this great soldier of the Cross. Six weeks before the Gen- 
eral Conference convened at Hot Springs, Ark., disease 
claimed "the outworn vesture of the spirit" and held her 
prostrate while the Church militant moved onward with 
its work of law revision and law making. The grief, the 
disappointment, the wonder of her friends and the Church 
that she could not be there is expressed perfectly in this 
message sent by Dr. W. F. Tillett, long-time Dean of the 
School of Theology of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, 
Tenn: 

"It is a source of profound regret to your many 
friends throughout the Church that after leading the 
women of Southern Methodism to the promised land 
of membership in the General Conference you could not 
be present on the opening day of the General Conference 
to enter with those of your sisters who had been elected 
like yourself to this high honor and this important serv- 
ice. 

"We are hoping that before the session is far ad- 
vanced you can be present at Hot Springs and claim 
your seat. On reaching the promised land, Moses was 
120 years of age and had served his day by the will of 
the Lord, and had to bow to nature's law; but you (our 
woman-Moses) are young enough for us to hope and 
pray with confidence that if you should not be able to 
attend this session of the Conference at all, you will have 
the vigor of body, mind, and heart to represent the 
women and your Annual Conference in the General 
Conference .that will meet four years hence. May it be 
so! 

"I write this line simply to let you know of the sincere 
regret of Mrs. Tillett and myself in your enforced ab- 
sence from the General Conference membership in 
which you had so nobly won by your splendid service 
and courageous leadership, and to assure you of our 
Christian love and sympathy in your sickness." 



HER LIFE WORK 2y:, 

Dr. \Y. \Y. Pinson's message at the close of the General 
Conference opened to her heart the high honor with which 
•her name was held throughout the Church: 

"It would have been a joy to you to have heard the 
expressions of affection and honor with which your 
name was mentioned during the General Conference. 
The entire Church is indebted to you for the high stand- 
ards for womanhod and the progressive measures for 
the entire Church that you have so eloquently and so 
powerfully enforced, both by example and precept, for 
so many years. Your influence and leadership have 
erected a montiment in the heart of Methodist people 
which will defy the ravages of time. In your hours of 
silence and suffering, you have reason to rejoice in the 
consciousness of the service you have rendered and are 
still rendering by your influence." 

Miss Bennett's disappointment in being too ill to take 
her place in the General Conference was great, but the one 
quest of her life — to know God's will and to do it — soon 
quieted depression and sustained her until, like that other 
great leader of the early Christian Church, she could ex- 
claim: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the 
course, I have kept the faith, I am ready for the crown of 
righteousness which the Lord has laid up for me." 



CHAPTER XIV 
FRIENDSHIPS 

Of Miss Bennett it may be said, as it was of the seven- 
teenth century singer and churchman, John Donne, "Friend- 
ship was her second religion." The measureless gift of 
her heart to those she called friends, the constant loyalty 
and personal concern for their temporal and spiritual wel- 
fare, with her unquestioning, childlike acceptance of their 
response to her own emotions, made her friendships sacred 
and lifted them into realms of unending relations. 

Miss Bennett's natural characteristics laid the founda- 
tion for large and varied friendships. Her mental alert- 
ness, her ever surprising humor, her gentle courteous 
consideration of others, her honesty, sincerity, and great 
heart of love and human sympathy could not fail 
to draw and hold captive, as by magnetic power, men and 
women, whether they were the great of the earth or folk of 
plain walks of life. It was this power which made the 
homesick Russian immigrant and his timid wife in a junk- 
shop on the East Side, New York, recognize a friendly 
soul and unburden their hearts to her — a stranger — as she 
examined their wares. It was not the purchase of their 
brass candlestick, with its seven burners, that rejoiced their 
hearts — it was the emotion and aspiration registered in re- 
sponse to her own sensitive spirit that made their faces 
glow. It was this power that bridged the racial separation 
and made possible the friendship between herself and Josie 
Bates, the Negro woman of her home town, upon whom 
she relied for spiritual help when problems arose or bur- 
dens pressed. This power of spirit, in its rich, beautiful 
setting, drew college men and women and students to her 
side longing to be called friends. 
(256) 



HER LIFE WORK 2.^7 

No sorrow or care came to those Miss Bennett called 
friends that she did not share, and she always searched for 
ways and means to lift financial strain when she found 
one so burdened. She spared herself no pain nor fatigue 
if to help one involved travel or hardship. With the same 
measure she shared their joy, even down to their children's 
children. As she gave herself to others the quickening qual- 
ity of her influence called out their best powers, and they 
delighted to love and serve her. Few persons commanded 
the loyalty and devotion it was the good pleasure of her 
friends to extend to her. The remarkable quality of 
friendship Miss Bennett generated was, that in the face of 
contradictions her friends trusted her loyalty and devo- 
tion. The swift response given when she called for sacri- 
ficial service attested their devotion. Under conflicting 
obligations there were occasions when she appeared to drop 
a friend, but when he had need, or her own love demanded 
it, she took up the friendship as though there had been no 
gap. If a friend were in trouble, she would defend him no 
matter how she might loathe its cause. There are even 
records of her defending one friend at the expense of an- 
other. In their loyalty her friends understood that this 
care for the offender was the virtue of sympathy carried 
beyond even her own sense of justice. In her official 
capacity she sometimes needed to prod a member of a com- 
mittee whose sensitiveness hampered her freedom; turning 
to one whose friendship she trusted she would rebuke or 
urge as though that one were the offender. This was su- 
preme proof of her friendship. The loyalty that stood 
tests such as these had its spring in her own deep under- 
standing of the meaning of friendship. She asked noth- 
ing she would not do or endure for those of whom she 
asked it. 

Miss Bennett's friendships puzzled some people. She 
was often the refuge of men and women of wavering faith 
17 



258 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

or of those upon whom criticism or harsh judgment con- 
cerning adherence to the dogma of the Church was visited. 
Her own faith and adherence to the Church was positive, 
but she could distinguish between faith and the forms of 
faith, and her breadth of mind and sympathetic, coura- 
geous spirit enabled her to understand that under the out- 
leading of the Holy Spirit some may 

"Grow too great 

For narrow creeds of right and wrong which fade 
Before the unmeasured thirst for good." 

This power of giving herself in their hours of need and 
her generosity in their differences of thought stayed waver- 
ing feet, created courageous hope, and sealed bonds of 
friendship. She was not indiscriminate in selection of 
friends; she would turn from stupid persons and say like 
Charles Lamb: "Common natures do not suffice me; good 
people (as they are called) won't serve. I want individ- 
uals." Yet people wondered how Miss Bennett gave so 
much time and love and strength to persons uncongenial 
by nature. Some who loved her resented, these friendships 
as a tax upon her strength. "She lets herself be monopo- 
lized," they said. But this woman of spirit vision had dis- 
cernment where others failed to see hidden possibilities. 
By giving herself for these whom others valued not, she 
called forth as by magic the best powers of some souls and 
set them to work for the kingdom. It was one of the 
most Christlike things she did, for like Him, whose friends 
were "publicans and sinners," she gave herself that their 
weakness might become strength. 

Mrs. Ida Harrison, of Lexington, Ky., whose brilliant 
service for the kingdom Miss Bennett held in highest es- 
teem, vindicated the axiom, "The most transforming in- 
fluences in life are personal friendships," when she de- 
clared, "Friendship with Miss Bennett is most expen- 



HER LIFE WORK 259 

sive." The great value of her friendship lay in her 
ability to stimulate and encourage larger development 
of one's powers. She could never be satisfied without 
growth, constant growth and activity for herself, and in 
love she held the same standards for her friends. There 
were times w^hen she was the despair of feebler folk or 
those of slower vision, but her merciless sincerity accepted 
nothing less than the best of which they were capable. This 
letter from Misses Tina and Emma Tucker reveals this 
concern for her friends: 

"One thing she said to us, with her hands on our 
shoulders in the long ago, when both of us were well 
and busy in evangelistic work, was this : 'I pray every 
day for you both, that God will keep you humble. You 
are talking or reading God's Word to the crowds, and 
he lets you help them. They tell you that, and there is 
danger that self may be glorified rather than God.' 
How we thanked her and profited by those candid, 
sincere words !' 

Miss Bennett's wide circle of friends and close relations 
with her fellow workers never won her from deep affec- 
tion for her immediate family, and those who had claims 
upon her were never disregarded. The nieces and nephews, 
whether in her home town or removed to distant States, 
were sources of pleasure and comfort or pride in their suc- 
cesses and joy, and objects of tenderest concern when ill- 
ness or affliction came. One who lived and toiled by her 
side thus describes her life within this inner circle: 

"Her devotion to her kinspeople was always a beauti- 
ful thing to see. She loved her brother, the last one 
of six, with all the affection of her great heart, tell- 
ing me again and again how he made it possible for her 
to give her entire time to the work of the Church by 
taking charge of her business interests. Whenever her 
work necessitated a trip to New York she always found 
time to have her brother's two daughters, students at 
Vassar College, as her week-end guests. During the 



26o BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

summer vacation and at Christmas, as many as eight or 
ten of her nieces and nephews were her guests at the 
hotel for meals. She declared it was her only way to 
visit with them. They were never happier than when 
she shared in some of their pleasures." 

The tenacity of Miss Bennett's nature held her to friend- 
ships of her youth and childhood with unabated sincerity 
even when time and circumstances changed their view- 
points of life or distance prevented personal association. 
Those who traveled with her in the West recall how she 
always went out of her route to spend a day, or even a 
few hours, with Mrs. Jennie Moran and Miss Belle Breck, 
daughters of her beloved old teacher. There was Miss 
Laura Clay, whose spirit met and stimulated her own in 
their common faiths in the righteousness of universal suf- 
frage, and Miss Lucia Burnam, Mrs. Jane McDowell Hol- 
ton, Mrs. Cornelia Clay, and Miss Lucile Crooke, all friends 
in Richmond from whom there had been no separation of 
heart or of association throughout her life. Then there 
were Miss Kate Helm, Mrs. Lucas Brodhead, and Mrs. 
Eliza Sharp Young and a host of others whose friendship 
came in the gay days of youth. No greater proof of affec- 
tion could be given than the post cards and letters Miss Ben- 
nett sent to friends when traveling abroad or journeying 
to Conference and Board meetings in the homeland. T)^ 
ical of dozens of letters and messages is this one to Miss 
Sallie Burnam, of Richmond, written March 25, 1901, 
while in the midst of reorganizing the North Alabama Con- 
ference Woman's Home Mission Society, a task of con- 
suming absorption: 

"My Dear Miss Sallie: Mary writes that you have 
not been so well since I left home. My heart aches to 
think of you as sick and suffering. You have been so 
full of helpfulness and strength for other people, such 
a blessing to so many around you that, somehow, I 
want to tell you to-day you have been witnessing for 



HER LIFE WORK 261 

God and righteousness all these years. If an earthly- 
friend can sympathize and suffer with you in your 
suffering, how much greater must be the sympathy and 
love of our Saviour who says : 'Even as a Father has 
loved me, so also have I loved you.' If we could only 
understand the wonderful meaning in those words, many 
things that seem hard in life would become easy. May 
He be very real to you and very, very close to you in 
your sickness." 

Miss Bennett's heart clung to the normal things of life 
and on occasions of special joy or celebration she loved to 
have part with her friends. If there was a birth, a young 
girl graduate, or a wedding in the home of a friend, gifts 
adapted to the event not only showed her love but her 
special interest manifested by the selection. Friends won- 
dered how she found time to select, wrap, and address the 
many gifts it was her custom to send at the Christmas sea- 
son. To many she sent checks of varying value, when 
choice was difficult or the money would serve a wiser pur- 
pose. The Christmas after her death the bookkeeper where 
she kept her accounts said to her brother: *'Mr. Bennett, I 
miss Miss Bennett's Christmas checks this year; every 
Christmas since I have been in this bank she has given scores 
of checks, as presents to people living hundreds of miles 
away." She was a royal lover, this great-hearted woman ! 

Outstanding in Miss Bennett's friendships were those 
which grew out of her effort to establish the Scarritt Bible 
and Training School. Chief among these friends was Mrs. 
S. C. Trueheart, who always seconded her every effort in 
its behalf. So perfect was Miss Bennett's devotion that she 
placed an annuity gift, for Mrs, Trueheart's benefit, with the 
Woman's Board of Home Missions. Mr. and Mrs. Sam 
Jones, for whom she held the most grateful appreciation, 
were among those whose gift of friendship came through 
their effort in behalf of the school. To Dr. Weyman Potter, 
of Georgia, she was bound by high ties of mutual apprecia- 



262 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

tion which her journal entry of October 7, 1891, reveals: 
"I cannot get over my feeling of personal loss in Dr. Pot- 
ter's death. He was one of the strongest, most liberal, and 
best men in our Church. He was woman's friend." 

A friendship between herself and Bishop E. R. Hendrix 
developed through the kinship of mutual interest in the 
Training School, which ran as a golden cord through the 
lives of both in ceaseless activities for a third of a century. 
Then there were Rev. J, J. Dickey, Dr. and Mrs. Poynter, 
Prof, and Mrs. J. C. Lewis, and a host of others who be- 
came beloved friends through their common concern for 
the building of Sue Bennett School in the Kentucky moun- 
tains. 

Miss Bennett's "heritage of leadership" brought to her 
side a great group of men and women whose world vision 
and singleness of purpose responded tO' her inner light, 
whom, like Jeremy Taylor, she called "soul friends." 
One of the earliest of these was Dr. David Mor- 
ton, the first Corresponding Secretary of the Board of 
Church Extension of the Southern Methodist Church. The 
breadth of this great man's spirit was shown in his oft- 
repeated statement when reckoning with her gifts of lead- 
ership: "How I would love to see Belle Bennett in the 
United States Congress !" This was in the days when few 
men ventured to think such things. When she confided to 
him the difficulties in the way of organized home missions 
and her own irritation over the limitations the Church put 
upon its women members, he quickly caught her viewpoint 
and urged with the vehemence of his great personality: 
"Speak it out, Miss Bennett, speak it out to the Church. 
The men are lots more afraid of you women than you are 
of them." Just what this friendship meant in the life and 
work of Miss Bennett is pictured in this paragraph of her 
personal tribute at the time of his death, published in Our 
Homes, April, 1898: 



HER LIFE WORK 26z 

"I can scarcely remember the time when I did not 
know, love, and honor Dr. David Morton. In all my 
Church life he has been one to whom I could go, feeling 
sure that I would receive help and encouragement. He 
was always approachable, always strong and fearless in 
his advocacy of what he believed to be right. Instinc- 
tively I turned to him in time of doubt or need and 
never failed to receive sympathy and kindly advice." 

Those who have scanned other chapters of this book have 
read for themselves the "kinship of soul" between Miss Ben- 
nett and Miss Harriet Thompson, woman of prevailing 
prayer, to whom she carried her burdens when she needed 
power beyond her human strength; and Mrs. Emily Allen 
Siler, fellow pioneer and brave heart, whose use of choice 
English she craved for the public utterances of the strug- 
gling organization God placed in their hands ; and Mrs. L. 
P. Smith, whose faith and zeal helped bring more than one 
of her great visions to reality. There was also Mrs. J. H. 
Yarbrough, upon whose spontaneous humor and great com- 
mon sense she relied when seeking sane issues of difficult 
complications; and Mrs. W. W. Carre, whose large busi- 
ness experience and moral support in new ventures for the 
King gave courage to go forward. It was in her home Miss 
Bennett always found a haven of rest when weary and 
worn from long journeys across the continent. Who has 
failed, as they have read these pages, to recognize how she 
depended upon the faith and counsel of Mrs. L. H. Glide? 
Mrs. R. L. Kirkwood was another friend to whom she 
turned when vexed with problems sore. It was to her be- 
loved "Sister Luke" (Mrs. Luke G. Johnson) she com- 
mitted many problems, because "she sees through things," 
and of her she asked much difficult service, never failing to 
have swift response. Who that knew Miss Bennett did 
not know her soul kinswoman. Miss M. L. Gibson, joint 
mother with herself of the women who went out of Scar- 
ritt Bible and Training School to serve all over the world? 



264 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

While visiting Miss Kate Helm, daughter of General 
Ben Hardin Helm, in Elizabethtown, Ky., Miss Bennett 
met Miss Mary Helm. Miss Mary was older by ten years 
or more, but their spirits met on common ground of in- 
tellectual pursuits, culture, and high idealism which ripened 
into fast friendship as they engaged in the woman's mis- 
sionary work of the Church. Miss Helm's hearty indorse- 
ment of the Scarritt Bible and Training School and sub- 
sequent suffering because of her zeal in its behalf, drew 
them together in closer bonds, until 1896, when they became 
officially related in the woman's home mission work. The 
molding influence of the older friend and the eager quest 
of the younger to know God's way for their beloved work 
so swayed each that 

"Thought leaped out to wed with thought 
Ere thought could wed itself with speech." 

There came a day when differences of judgment concern- 
ing the union of the missionary organizations of the Church 
made cooperation in service impossible for Miss Helm. The 
workfellowship was broken, and she returned to Kentucky. 
In a letter to Miss Bennett a glimpse of the depth of her 
love and suffering over the separation their differences 
caused is given: 

"Helm Place, July 12, 1910. 
"My Dear Belle: There has not been a day in the 
months past that I have not thought of you many, 
many times — always lovingly and with a deep sense 
of oneness with you despite surface differences. We 
are both women of strong convictions, independence of 
thought, and freedom of action. It is not unnatural 
that we (from these very qualities) should at times 
differ in our views, and being true to our convictions 
should honestly and vigorously stand for them, and yet 
grant each to the other the same right. In all sincerity 
we differed in regard to unification of the Boards, 
neither of us having any personal feeling or personal 



HER LIFE WORK 265 

ends to serve. It was a new experience to oppose you, 
and the pain could only be borne by the unshaken con- 
viction that I was right. You were the victor, and I 
yielded up my weapon — and you were no longer my 
opponent but my own beloved friend, bound to me in the 
close bonds of fellowship in Christ, 'a bond stronger than 
friendship and nearer than kinship.' As we can say, 
*I am persuaded that nothing can separate us from the 
love of God in Christ Jesus,' so also may we with all 
reverence add, 'Nothing can separate us from those to 
whom the love of God in Christ has bound us.' My 
dear Soul Sister we will forget the difference of opinion 
and the struggle it involved, leaving it as an incident 
of the past to be remembered only as it increases our 
loving respect for the other. 'What God hath bound 
together let not man put asunder' applies to other 
things than matrimony. The soul union that he formed 
between us cannot be sundered by man, or time or 
aught else as long as we are true to ourselves, to each 
other, and to him." 

Within three years Miss Helm "was not, for God took 
her." In perfect mental clearness, as she waited for death 
to emancipate her spirit from its earthly tabernacle, her 
thoughts turned to Miss Bennett, who was in Brazil at the 
time. In the last hour she said to one who had worked with 
them both: "Tell Belle how I love her, and tell her how I 
loved to work with her. How sweet it was we three work- 
ing together ! We had differences, but they were mental ; we 
always had one spirit. Tell Belle how glad I am to go — 
tell Belle how I love her." 

The wealth of human love Miss Bennett knew how to 
spend upon her fellow workers is revealed in this letter to 
one with whom she worked for twenty years: 

MuDLAViA, Ind., July I, 1916. 
"My Dear Friend: Your telegram came the evening of 
the 29th. I am glad you are going to Junaluska, and 
I so wish you would remain all the month of July, not 
on furlough, but with Miss Parchment with you. You 
wouldn't be as comfortable in some ways as at home. 



266 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

but you would be in the higher altitude and the bracing 
mountain atmosphere and not have half as many in- 
terruptions. I wish you would get out of Nashville 
during the heat, dear; you owe it to yourself, the work, 
and I think a little bit to me, for I am sure you have 
had no friend — not even the members of your own 
family — who has loved you more dearly these years 
that God has let us work together. As you grow older 
and the work grows in size, intensity, and difficulties, 
health and strength must be considered and conserved. 
Mrs. Trueheart and Mrs. Cobb were wise to spend their 
summers at Monteagle, and I honor them for the wis- 
dom they showed in this. 

"I just grieved after writing you to go to Los 
Angeles. That night and later as I thought of all the 
trip involved and might bring forth in the way of annoy- 
ance I was heart sick. ... I would rather trust your 
direction from Nashville than any committee you could 
appoint in Los Angeles under present conditions. Don't 
go, don't take that long, tiresome trip. Miss Head goes 
to Nashville Monday ; I will perhaps stay on for the 
baths three or four days longer. Write me at Rich- 
mond." 

When this fellow^ worker retired from the active work 
of the Woman's Missionary Council, Miss Bennett's as- 
surance of devotion is thus disclosed: 

"I am sure that you know that I love you, love you 
and depend on you as I do on only one or two other 
persons in the world. To have you leave the work 
would mean another heart sorrow for me, another 
separation, scarcely less painful than death." 

Another picture of the warmth of this woman's heart is 
given in this message to Miss Elizabeth Billingsley, long- 
time friend and fellow worker at the Scarritt Bible and 
Training School: 

"Dear Sister and Felloiu Worker: I am sure you can- 
not know how I, personally, have appreciated the self- 
sacrificing work that you have done, all of these years 
behind us, in the Training School, and I know you will 



HER LIFE WORK 267 

not understand until you get to heaven how grateful 
I am for your friendship, which has meant so much to 
me. There are so many new women in the Council 
who have known the Training School only by name and 
have not known the staff at all, I sometimes feel relieved 
and glad at the thought of the end which is so close 
for all of us to whom God gave the great privilege and 
joy of laying the foundation and building on it for 
twenty-eight years. How many, many close friends 
you will meet when you open your eyes on the other side 
of life's veil, in the house of many mansions. If I 
go first, rest assured that I shall give you a glad wel- 
come. If you precede me, I know I shall have the joy 
of being welcomed by you, and we will talk of the 
things that God let us do in this kindergarten life." 

Every successful Wesley House in Southern Methodism 
owes its life, under God, not alone to the City Mission 
Board whose generosity makes its maintenance possible, but 
to the executive ability and invincible spirit of the pioneer 
Head Resident and her fellow workers who live in them 
and touch life with the people. When Miss Bennett first 
visited the Wesley House in Dallas, Tex., in 1903, she en- 
countered the courageous, original, enterprising spirit of 
Miss Estelle Haskin, the first Head Resident. The response 
of spirit between the two women was immediate, and a 
friendship of surpassing devotion grew out of the qualities 
of mind and heart that complemented each other. Miss 
Haskin became one of those friends upon whom Miss Ben- 
nett called for service no matter how difficult, and she was 
moved from one hard task to another in the work of the 
Church until at last her skill brought to pass a real Bureau 
of Missionary Publicity and Literature, for which Miss 
Bennett had striven twenty years. The tender regard of the 
older woman for the younger was manifested in her last 
will and testament by the legacy of a personal keepsake 
which she had valued for sentimental reasons a half cen- 
tury. 

In many respects the one person with whom Miss Ben- 



268 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

nett was most closely bound in the bonds of fellowship with 
Christ was the late Bishop Walter R. Lambuth. From the 
day of their meeting, July 2, 1891, at the laying of the 
corner stone of the Scarritt Bible and Training School, they 
were united in absolute faith in God and amazing faith in 
man's power to execute God's will; the one caught the 
vision of the other, and in unflinching obedience they set 
their ceaseless energies to fulfill them. They both loved the 
Church of God with divine passion. Each knew the weak- 
nesses of the other, and in their differences of opinion they 
recognized the merit of the other, thus developing a sub- 
lime friendship. How close these great leaders stood in 
their marvelous leadership of the twentieth century Church 
is revealed by this letter from Bishop Lambuth from the 
heart of the Belgian Congo: 

"BoMBO, Kasai District, Central Africa, 
Sunday, December 24, 1911. 

"My Dear Friend: Service is over and my heart is 
full. I must give expression to my thoughts, and to 
you especially who have ever been in sympathy with 
this great work, and one whom I count as one of the 
few friends whose absolute confidence I possess and 
to whom I can open my heart. Have you not been 
praying for me day by day for years ? Was it not your 
conviction that I should accept this office? I hesitated 
long, and prayed much lest a serious mistake, in my case, 
might be made by the Church. The voice of the 
Church should be the voice of God, but you know and 
so do I that even the Church may sometimes fail to 
discern the will of God. 

"H God has answered your prayers in the matter of 
my election to the episcopacy, and in relation to the 
work which seems to have been cut out for me, a great 
responsibility has been put upon you as well as my- 
self in the light of the developments of this year. This 
is true of both Brazil and Africa. Then the time is 
short for both of us, especially for me. I must do with- 
in the next ten years all that it will be possible for me 
to do in this life. Stand by me therefore in tlie plan- 
ning and in the doing." 



HER LIFE WORK 269 

Bishop Lambuth saw clearly ; within ten years God called 
him from his labors in the Church militant to the glories 
of the Church triumphant. Miss Bennett was attending the 
International Missionary Committee at Mohonk when the 
message of his going reached her. The keen edge of her 
sense of loss is made evident by these communications to 
Miss Mabel Howell, Secretary of Oriental Work of the 
Woman's Misisonary Council: 

"Your telegram just received. How fast they go! 
Bishop Lambuth and Bishop Hendrix have been the 
two with whom I have been most intimate all the years 
since I entered the Methodist Church. At the last 
General Conference when I spoke of retiring from the 
Council ranks dear Bishop Hendrix walked with me 
and pleaded : 'O, don't go until I do.' Bishop Lam- 
buth and I were almost the same age, and we too talked 
of the end being near. Now neither of them will at- 
tend the next General Conference. The Church will 
miss him and will not soon have his like again." 

To Miss Howell she wrote, October 14, 1921, a letter 
which reveals her realization of the Church's great loss, 
yet in accustomed faith she turns to God to raise up one of 
Hke mind for his great mission: 

"Bishop Lambuth's death has been to many others, 
just what it has been to you, a great personal loss, I 
know you feel as if you could hardly go on with your 
work in the Orient without him, for no other man in 
all the Church knew the missionaries on the fields and 
the work as he did. No other member of the College 
of Bishops can take his place as friend, brother, and 
leader in those Eastern lands. I have been wondering 
who would succeed him another year. I hope the Gen- 
eral Conference will elect one or more missionary 
Bishops who will reside on those fields. They should 
be men who, like Lambuth, have lived and worked in 
the lands where they will reside. If we are much in 
prayer, God will raise up some one who can and will 
fill the need that now so oppresses us." 



270 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

The power of the transforming influence of friendship 
with Miss Bennett is vividly set forth in a message to her, 
dated July i, 1922, from Mrs. A. A. Davies, with whom she 
served in the beginning of her Church leadership: 

"I love you so, Miss Bennett, and I wonder if I've 
ever told you how much you've meant to me — far more 
than you've ever dreamed. The first time I ever saw you 
and came under your influence was at a missionary 
meeting in Carlisle, Ky., when I was sixteen years old, 
and from that time on your wonderful character has 
been the greatest human inspiration I've ever known, 
and I have honored and loved more dearly your Christ 
than I would ever have done perhaps without it. 

"May I tell you a little secret which may reveal to 
you more clearly all of this? There have come to me — 
as to all — hours of perplexity, many times when the 
way was uncertain and I could not decide on the best 
course. Of course, always my first impulse was to seek 
divine guidance, and then almost unconsciously I would 
begin to wonder what you'd do under the same circum- 
stances. I'd then try to visualize you in the same posi- 
tion, and somehow I could see more clearly the way by 
what I was led to believe you'd do. So, dear friend 
of mine, God has often used you to lead me, though you 
knew it not — and you've never led me astray." 

Perhaps Miss Bennett wielded no deeper influence upon 
any young person than that which surcharges the life pur- 
pose of Miss Mabel K. Howell. As a young graduate of 
Cornell University she was thrown into closest fellowship 
with Miss Bennett. What the impress was upon her char- 
acter Miss Howell describes in a letter to her, dated June, 
1922: 

"As I think of you in the light of these changes that 
will come (referring to actions of the recent General 
Conference) I cannot fail to see how wonderful and 
magnificent your leadership has been through all the 
years. I know that you will never know in any real 
way what the womanhood of the Church and the 
Church owes to you. It has been a spiritual leadership 



HER LIFE WORK 271 

of the highest order. No other leadership in the Church 
has been equal to yours. It has been surpassing- 
ly great. So often these days I have thought over 
and again of the words that you have said to me when 
talking closely together. How often you have en- 
couraged me to think that somehow I could continue to 
carry on the work that you had started. I can never do 
it, but deep down in my heart there is a most earnest 
prayer that under God's leadership I shall be equal to 
the limit of my own capacity to the responsibilities 
that fall upon us as women in this new day. The deep- 
est prayer of my heart is that I may not only be true 
to the leadership of my Heavenly Father, but true to 
those great fundamental principles for which you have 
always stood." 

This story of the varying types of Miss Bennett's friend- 
ships, v^^ith their contribution to the enrichment of her life 
and her own lavish outflow of heart to each is not a roll call 
of those she called friends. There could be no roster of 
those she loved and honored with friendship. All over the 
country there are great and small who call her friend — 
"gentle friend who made my cause her own." 



CHAPTER XV 

GOING HOME 

For thirty-eight years the heart cry of Belle Harris Ben- 
nett had been: "My meat is to do the will of him that sent 
me and to accomplish his work." More than a third of a 
century the majesty and strength of her spirit drew a host 
of men and women to fields where she toiled, that they also 
might have part in the high task of building God's king- 
dom on the earth. This Spirit-taught sage 

"Spake with God as with her friend, 
And ruled her people with twofold power. 
Of wisdom that can dare and still be meek." 

But no story of her life could fail to note the shadow 
that fell upon her spirit in the last years of service. She 
saw the trend of Church leadership looking toward absorp- 
tion of woman's work and the women working in a subordi- 
nate place to carry forward that which their faith, energy, 
and skill had established. These fears this great soldier of 
the Cross confided to the forces she had led these many 
years, but she would not let them dampen her zeal. This 
last message but one to the Council reveals the steadfast 
purpose of her leadership: 

' "Our hearts cry out: 'Who is sufficient for these 
things?' Our sufficiency is from God; and by all the 
mercies of the past, the glorious hope of the future, we 
dare not falter or fail. We must be 'steadfast, un- 
movable, abounding in the work of the Lord.' 

"Let the future bring what it may. 'God is our refuge 
and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.' 
The field is wide, the need is great, God loves us. Let 
us do the work he has committed to our hands, and let 
us be much in prayer for wisdom and guidance." 
(272) 



HER LIFE WORK 273 

In the spring of 1921, after the adjournment of the an- 
nual meeting of the Woman's Missionary Council, the last 
annual meeting she attended, Miss Bennett stopped for a 
visit with a friend, an old workfellow, in Washington. It 
was then, as she unburdened her heart to this one of whose 
sympathy she was ever sure, the weariness and nervousness 
from these long years of overwork was so apparent that 
the friend cried: "Quit, Miss Bennett; give it up; let some 
one else bear these responsibilities. The Coimcil will have 
to do without you some day." Turning about she said: 
"Now, don't talk like that to me. I didn't put myself in the 
leadership of this work. God put me here, and when he 
wants me to give it up he will take me out." A few months 
later she wrote to her friend, Mrs. Kirkwood, "I would be 
glad to be relieved from the work of the presidency"; but 
her habit of waiting before God prevailed, and she trusted 
him to lead her out of this divine employ when she had 
finished the work he gave her to do. The summer came and 
the autumn followed, bringing no rest from the responsi- 
bility or physical strain. Work, imceasing work, as though 
each day's toil held the destinies of man, marked the pass- 
ing of the months. Midwinter brought committee meet- 
ings of utmost importance at Kansas City and at Nashville ; 
and though the illness which had been sapping her life for 
a year was apparent, she did not stop to measure her 
strength, but went forward in the difficult work with accus- 
tomed zeal. 

The General Conference Commission on reorganization 
of the missionary forces of the Church convened in Nash- 
ville on February 14, 1922. Miss Bennett and Mrs. Luke 
G. Johnson represented the Woman's Missionary Council 
on this Commission, and both were present to protect the 
interests of the women. The story of this remarkable meet- 
ing is given by Mrs. Johnson in the following statement: 
18 



274 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"It was Miss Bennett's consuming desire during her 
entire public career to lift woman from a subordinate 
to a coordinate place in the life of the Church. 
Throughout the years she skillfully and gradually se- 
cured more and more recognition for woman's talents, 
consecration, leadership, and administration. This was 
necessarily accomplished through separate woman's or- 
ganizations, though in her thought it was from the be- 
ginning but a means toward coordinate and equal serv- 
ice and leadership for both men and women. 

"An outstanding event in Miss Bennett's life took 
place at the time of the meeting of the General Confer- 
ence Commission on the reorganization of the misison 
forces of the Church, February 14-16, 1922. She recog- 
nized during the discussions of this Commission that the 
fullness of time had arrived when the great principle for 
which she had so long labored, and toward which every 
step of her leadership had tended, was now possible of 
fulfilment. As in every time of expansion in life, there 
was pain in the process. 

"Miss Bennett arrived in Nashville on the morning 
of the day of the meeting, too ill to be away from her 
home. But so great were the issues involved that she 
said to her fellow committee worker : 'I feared it would 
kill me, but I had to come.' For several hours before 
the meeting she suffered unspeakably in her room at the 
hotel. Even during the two days which followed, her 
suffering was so intense that she could scarcely rise 
from her seat to speak. 

"It was evident from the beginning that a majority 
of the Commission thought that the Board of Mis- 
sions as then constituted should be divided and the 
Home Mission work placed with the Board of Church 
Extension. While this was strongly opposed by the 
two women, it likely would have carried in the Com- 
mission but for the fact that the organized form of 
woman's work did not lit into the scheme. The 
Woman's Missionary Council was a united body com- 
posed of both Home and Foreign work. In the plans 
proposed to the Commission, there was no place for it 
as such, and the proposition was to separate its de- 
partments and 'attach' them to the two proposed 
Boards. 

"This proposition led to a sharp division, and for two 
days the debate waxed warm while each group battled 



HER LIFE WORK 27s 

for its ideals. The discussion invariably ended with the 
question : 'What shall we do with the women?' Tremb- 
ling with physical pain, Miss Bennett finally rose and 
pleaded for a united Board with three coordinate de- 
partments. Grasping at every possible means of hold- 
ing her ideal, she illustrated by the glass partitions of 
the room in which we were sitting in the Publishing 
House — three of them alongside, equal in size and 
value and held together by one long overhead piece of 
like material. Again and again she urged the creation 
of a Board with three coordinate Departments — the 
Woman's Department to be one. When the day came 
to a close it was evident that the men had not yielded 
their plan for two Boards with the woman's organiza- 
tion divided and 'attached.' 

"Sick at heart, we returned to the hotel with scarce- 
ly a gleam of hope. To have our woman's organiza- 
tion 'attached' to the two proposed Boards, without any 
individual form or function and without any degree 
of administration left to the women anywhere, was a 
blow which shattered all hope for achieving that for 
which she had so long labored. The issue was unmis- 
takably and clearly before us. Should we cease to 
struggle and yield? Should we demand a separate 
woman's board, and in so doing lose that which we had 
already gained in the long struggle for cooperative and 
unified work? Or should we seek a still larger life 
inside the general organization? With this burning 
issue upon us, we separated for the night. 

"In the early morning while it was yet scarcely day, 
she called me to her room. I found that she had spent 
the night in prayer and meditation even though in great 
pain and weakness. Together we talked and prayed 
for hours more. In this Gethsemane there settled upon 
us the conviction that there could now be no wavering, 
that the battle for woman's place of service in the 
Church must be held. Together we talked it out, and 
from her lips there came a statement of faith and de- 
votion to her Lord and Christ rarely paralleled. Christ 
and his cause were first and over all in her thought. 
To maintain his supremacy, woman must not fail. Out 
of it all there came a decision as to the course we 
should pursue in the Commission meeting soon to fol- 
low. That decision marked a milestone in her think- 
ing — another goal in the constant and endless effort 



2/6 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

toward a united Church membership, delivering its 
full contribution of combined force for the upbuild- 
ing of the kingdom around the world. We realized that, 
if this decision should find favor and be consummated, 
it would mean the yielding of some of the inde- 
pendent administration which had been the natural de- 
velopment of a separate woman's organization; it would 
mean the sacrifice of unmolested thought and action in 
the prosecution of the work : but — it would mean an 
advance toward the goal of a fuller life in the organic 
heart of the Church. 

"With such a conviction, there was but one course 
to follow. After consultation and prayer with all the 
women Secretaries who could be hastily summoned to 
the hotel, we went to the second day's meeting of the 
Commisison without a doubt as to the position we 
should take. Without delay we announced to the Com- 
mission the conclusions we had reached and the reasons 
therefor. This had its efifect. It immediately arrested 
debate, and there was tacit acceptance of the position 
announced. Some questioned the probability of the 
women at large accepting the position taken by Miss 
Bennett and her coworker, when the Chairman, Bishop 
John M. Moore, said : 'Miss Bennett, it can be done, but 
it will be necessary for you to go from Conference to 
Conference and explain to the women why you think 
this is the way. They will follow your leadership.' 
She replied: 'Bishop, I am a sick woman and I can't 
do that, but I will call a meeting of all the women of 
the Church and will try to tell them all together." 

Upon the adjournment of the General Conference Com- 
mission Miss Bennett called a special meeting of the 
Woman's Missionary Council to convene in Memphis, 
Tenn., March 6, 1922. Between these meetings she was 
ill and suffering so much that she went to the hospital at 
Lexington, Ky., for rest and treatment. On the morning 
of March 4, at 8 o'clock, in great suffering and in the 
midst of a fearful blizzard, she and her faithful secretary 
left the hospital and boarded tlie train, traveling continu- 
ously until they reached their destination at 10 o'clock at 



1 



HER LIFE WORK 277 

night. Concerning this called meeting Miss Bennett wrote 
Mrs. L. H. Glide: 

"The women were in a state of excitement when they 
were notified, but eighty-two of the one hundred and 
three came to Memphis, and we spent a night and two 
days in discussing the whole matter. These were preced- 
ed by a day of fasting and prayer at the hotel where the 
meeting was held. Many of the women from Texas, 
Virginia, and other places testified that they had spent 
all night — indeed, all the hours of their journey — in con- 
tinued prayer. In all of the twelve years that the 
Council has been in existence, I have known no more 
earnest searching after the will of God than during that 
day of fasting and that evening, as we sat together, com- 
muning with our Lord Jesus Christ, asking to know his 
will and to be guided by him, during our time together." 

The day following those hours of fasting and prayer 
Miss Bennett called the women together to explain the cause 
of this ad interim session of the Council. Mrs. Luke G. 
Johnson gives the following account of the meeting: 

"Even then death had fastened its relentless grasp 
upon Miss Bennett, and when she made the effort to 
explain the action of the Commission her wonted clear- 
ness and decisiveness left her. She was unable to give 
her reasons as to why she believed that a larger life was 
in the path of yielding some of the independent adminis- 
trative functions of the Council in order to secure them 
in the larger body, the Board of Missions, which, by 
reason of the type of Church government we have, was 
the regularly accepted channel for administration in the 
Church as a whole. In her effort to soften the blow 
of vanishing administrative powers, and because she be- 
lieved it would furnish a continued development of 
woman's gifts and loyalty, she tried to suggest a larger 
type of activity in which Methodist women might fed- 
erate, not only for mission work, but for all lines of 
work which the women of the Church are now doing 
and may yet do. It amounted to a tragedy that she was 
so ill when speaking that her purpose was not made 
clear and that her last great public effort was not then 
attained." 



278 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Miss Bennett returned to Richmond from this Memphis 
meeting with such alarming symptoms that a physician and 
trained nurse were called. Her devoted niece, Mrs. Annie 
B. Collins, moved her from the hotel to her own beautiful 
home, where she was cared for with the devotion of a 
daughter. 

Miss Bennett could not attend the Council annual meet- 
ing at San Antonio in April, the first annual meeting at 
which she failed to answer roll call of the Board or Coun- 
cil since she accepted the presidency of organized woman's 
work in 1896. So long had the women depended upon her 
great warm-hearted personality and the inspiration of her 
radiant faith that their distress, when they knew she would 
not be with them, was beyond compare. They kept her in 
touch with the workings of the session by telegrams at the 
close of each day, and when the hour of election of officers 
for the ensuing quadrenniiun approached they arose en 
masse and chose her as president even though they knew 
she was nearing threescore years and ten, the allotted span 
of life. They hoped and prayed she might recover suffi- 
ciently to take her seat at the General Conference in May 
to which she had been elected a delegate, but disappoint- 
ment met every expectation. Miss Emily Olmstead tells 
how keen was Miss Bennett's regret at this frustration of 
her dreams: 

"She told me she had to spend the waking hours of 
the night in prayer that she might win the victory over 
self. After all her years of struggle and hard work to 
have the women of the Church recognized in its coun- 
cils she, like Moses, was not allowed to enter her 
Canaan. How marvelously she succeeded in winning 
this victory was seen by those who ministered to her; 
there was a peace and quietness that brought to mind 
the words of the prophet Isaiah : 'In quietness and in 
confidence shall be your strength.' " 



HER LIFE WORK 279 

When it became known that Miss Bennett's illness was 
extreme and there could be no hope of her attending this 
General Conference of the Church, the men and women 
paused in the midst of pressing deliberations to send her a 
message and have special prayer for her restoration to 
health. Genuine grief marked this expression of sym- 
pathy. 

Miss Olmstead gives this intimate glimpse of those first 
days when Miss Bennett began to question her recovery 
and tells of the heroic spirit with which she met the possi- 
bility of death: 

"When the surgeon advised an exploratory operation 
to determine the exact cause of the disease which 
seemed to baffle them, Miss Bennett was willing. The 
day we left for Lexington, May 15, she was apparently 
more cheerful than any of us, coming in to the dinner 
table and chatting through the meal. She had been 
able to answer the mail up until that time, often dictat- 
ing important letters from her sick bed ; again, when she 
was able to be up and around her room, the nurse and 
I took turns in reading to her the newspapers, the 
Church periodicals, and other current periodicals of in- 
terest. The quiet hour was always observed, we spend- 
ing sometimes several hours in Bible reading and 
study. 

"The night before the operation her self-control was 
remarkable. She seemed to feel that she must be brave 
and cheerful for the sake of her loved ones who were 
so distressed. Only once, when I kissed her good night, 
she held to my hand and whispered : 'Daughter, I am 
counting on your prayers that I may do His will, and 
that I may be unafraid.' 

"The next morning, just before being taken to the 
operating room, she smiled and said : 'After the opera- 
tion is over, please remember to return the amethyst 
cross to dear Mrs. Cuninggim.' I told her I believed 
there would be no need to return it, for I felt that she 
was going to get well and wear the cross. She said 
nothing, and somehow I felt that she knew she would 
not recover from the surgical operation. 

"I well recall how deeply touched she had been a 



28o BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

couple of months before when the beautiful amethyst 
cross had come to her as a gift from Mrs. Cuninggim, 
the wife of the President of Scarritt College. It was 
accompanied by a note saying that as some of the sol- 
diers in the World War were wearing the Croix de 
Guerre and other medals for bravery and honor, so she 
felt that such a brave soldier of the Cross as Miss Ben- 
nett, who had served so long and so faithfully, should 
be cited for bravery ; and she wanted her to accept the 
amethyst cross as her Croix de Guerre. Miss Bennett 
accepted it and had worn it always with greatest joy, 
but she wrote Mrs. Cuninggim that when she died 
it must return to the little daughter in the family, that 
when she grew to young womanhood she might wear 
the amethyst cross that had been such an unselfish 
thought of her mother's. 

"When the operation revealed the hopelessness of 
Miss Bennett's condition it was not necessary for any 
one of us to tell her; she knew it already. One day, a 
few weeks after the operation in answer to my ques- 
tion as to how she felt, she replied 'Much better than 
I expected, for it isn't easy to go to sleep when I know 
that on awakening I shall not be able to be up and about 
my Lord's business; instead, I must lie patiently each 
day and await his call to release me.' She spoke 
truly. It was not easy for one to lie passive, who had 
given nearly every waking hour for thirty-eight years to 
the great work to which God had called her. But 
through her surrendered life, as she lay on her sick bed, 
God was able to make her a benediction to those who 
visited her room." 

Miss Bennett had founded her w^ork on love and by love 
created fellowship; and her thought in the last v^eeks of 
her protracted illness, for the w^omen with whom she had 
labored and suffered many years, was true to this ruling 
passion of her life. Messages of love and hope and cour- 
age were sent from the sick chamber like this through a 
friend who was a privileged visitor: 

"She wishes that the many loving friends, from whom 
she has received hundreds of letters, shall know of the 
wonderful blessings that have come to her through 



HER LIFE WORK 281 

their words. There have been many messages of love 
and comfort, but the message that has most often come 
and comforted most has been: 'I love you; and if I 
love you, God must love you much more.' This has 
helped through the days of suffering and pain. She 
said, also, to tell the friends that the promise upon which 
she is resting most constantly is the promise given by 
Jesus to his disciples just before he went away: 'And 
if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again 
and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye 
may be also.' 

"She feels that the many prayers of her friends have 
been answered, for she is most wonderfully conscious 
of the presence of the Christ. She talks to him as 
though he sat beside her bed, a presence more real than 
that of any earthly friend." 

And again she assured each one that in God's eternal pur- 
pose for the universe there would still be fellowship in 
service In the "many mansions" promised by the Christ. 
Weymouth's translation of Hebrews i: 14 was a repeat- 
ed message and among her last words: "Are not all angels 
spirits that serve him whom he sent out to render service 
for the benefit of those who before long will inherit salva- 
tion?" Grief stricken were the women in this land and in 
the foreign fields when they knew they would no longer 
follow the leading of her who was best friend and inspira- 
tion of their highest endeavors. Letters, telegrams, and 
cablegrams came to her from all parts of the world, tell- 
ing of love and gratitude for what she had meant in the 
lives of those who sent them. Many devoted friends 
journeyed to Lexington as she lingered in the hospital, or 
to Richmond when she returned, to see her beloved face 
again and to tell the old, old story of their love and thanks- 
giving for the blessing of her friendship. Among the many 
messages was a cablegram from a mission field, signed 
"Friends," which read "Philippians i : 2-6" — "Grace to you 
and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 
I thank my God upon all my remembrance of you. Al- 



282 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

ways in every supplication of mine on behalf of you all 
making my supplication with joy, for your fellowship in 
furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now, 
being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good 
work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." 

Miss Mabel Howell, among the last friends who were 
privileged to visit her, reveals her spirit in those last weeks : 

"While her body was full of pain and her suffering 
was so very intense, her great soul seemed to me greater 
than it ever was. She knew she was going, and going 
soon, and talked as if it were a certainty. She talked to 
me about various phases of the work at home and es- 
pecially in the Orient. She talked of people, of the new 
organization, but the one thing she wanted and did talk 
most about was the wonderful sense of God's presence. 
She said : 'He is so very near me. I do not feel I must 
pray. I want to keep my eyes open when I talk to 
him.' She prayed for me and asked me to pray that 
God's will might be done in her. She said she wanted 
the Council to have annually a Day of Prayer and Fast- 
ing for the preachers of the Church. She said they 
wanted and needed it, and she believed the women would 
want to do it. She was ready to go, if her Father 
wanted it, and seemed fully conscious that a great field 
of service lay before her in heaven. She spoke of 
the 'ministering saints' of Hebrews — a passage on which 
she had often dwelt. She believed in service of some 
kind after death. She said she would be laboring on 
with us without limitation of the suffering body." 

It was granted to her devoted friend and deaconess 
secretary. Miss Emmie Olmstead, to be at her side when 
she was translated from this life into the fuller one, and 
it is her pen that must give to the world the closing scene 
in the life of this wonderful servant of God: 

"O, the blessed fellowship that was ours during 
those last few weeks of her illness ! Just at twilight 
each day was the time for our evening prayer together. 
One night, after a day of much company, she asked 
that we repeat in unison, the 'Now I lay me down to 



HER LIFE WORK 283 

sleep' of our childhood days. At another time when the 
strain had begun to tell on my nerves, and I sobbed 
through the prayer, she laid her hand gently on my 
bowed head, saying: 'Daughter, I never fail, day nor 
night, to thank God for you. Don't grieve because I 
am going away; when I have laid aside this nervous 
body, I shall be 'closer to you than breathing, nearer 
than hands and feet.' How naturally she talked of her 
home-going and of the joy when she should see her 
Savior face to face ! 

"Just two days before her death, we had our last 
prayer together. The pain had been unsually severe, 
and she was worn from the suffering. In a rather petu- 
lant tone, she said : 'O, I wish the Master would come 
for me; I am so tired, so tired of waiting.* When I 
tried to comfort her and to remind her how brave and 
patient she had been through the long weeks and 
months, she lifted her voice in prayer, and the room 
seemed vibrant with the Master's presence. When I 
closed the prayer at her request, she asked that we re- 
peat together i Peter 5 : 10, the verse that had been 
such a comfort to her at the hospital : 'And the God of 
all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ 
Jesus, after that you have suffered for a little while 
shall himself perfect, establish, and strengthen you . . . 
unto the ages of ages.' 

"In the midnight hour, when the death angel hovered 
close, we sat by her side ; and though she seemed to 
sleep quietly under the influence of the medicine that 
dadened the pain, I saw her lips move. Bending to 
catch the words, I heard her whisper, 'First Peter,' and 
I knew that the Master had come to take her unto him- 
self." 

Forty minutes past twelve, July 20, 1922, surrounded by 
all that devotion of family and human affection could sup^ 
ply, the Great / Am came and all unseen revealed to her the 
way "where soul must part from self and be but soul." 
Freed from the burden of the flesh, her exalted spirit found 
its many mansions all "bright with heavenly shine." O, the 
mystery of birth, of death, of life eternal! 

Two days later the funeral service, at the home of her 
niece, Mrs. Annie Bennett Collins, in keeping with Miss 



284 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Bennett's wish, was simple and beautiful in its expression 
of Christian joy and faith in the "life more abundant." 
Death was only an episode in life to Miss Bennett, and she 
wanted no "sadness of farewell" when the "outworn ves- 
ture of her spirit" was returned to mother earth. Only 
her family, a few very intimate friends, and the official rep- 
resentatives of the Church organizations in which she had 
labored were present. The ritual of the Church was read 
by her friend. Dr. B. C. Horton, and her pastor. Dr. William 
Sadler. Hymns of her own selection, expressive of her 
inner experience — "O love, that will not let me go" and 
"Jesus, lover of my soul" — were sung, bringing to those 
who heard the hope of "Life that shall endless be." Dr. 
Telford, pastor of the Richmond Presbyterian Church, 
whose spiritual help comforted her waiting soul in the 
weeks of weary suffering, led the prayer of praise and ten- 
der thanksgiving for her Hfe. Beautiful flowers, sent by 
devoted friends from all parts of the country, filled the 
house and carpeted the lawn about the open grave, while 
on the casket rested a great cross of white and pink, an 
offering of love from the Woman's Missionary Council. 

Bishop U. V. W. Darlington read the hymn, "Now the 
Laborer's Task Is O'er!" as they buried her worn robe of 
flesh by the side of her sister. Miss Sue Bennett, whom she 
loved as no other. As those who loved and had toiled by 
her side grouped about the open grave and listened to the 
reading of the promise of life eternal from the Word of 
God, joy ineffable filled their souls. This their great-hearted 
leader lived, lived because He lived, and this that was Ccdled 
death was but 

"A swift passing to a mightier sphe^'e, 
New joys, perfected powers, the vision clear 
And all the amplitude of heaven to work 
The work she held so dear." 



CHAPTER XVI 
AFTERGLOW 

The victorious life of Belle Harris Bennett needs no 
encomium of man; yet the praise the angel of the Apoca- 
lypse sings for those who "put on immortality" echoes in 
the hearts of those who touched life with her, and they join 
the celestial choir as they chant : "Blessed are the dead who 
die in the Lord, for their works do follow with them." The 
extent of her influence was disclosed when the Associated 
Press announced that her "activities in connection with edu- 
cational and missionary affairs brought her country-wide 
prominence." The Church press throughout the connec- 
tion, with evidence of grief, acknowledged the impoverish- 
ment of the world by her going, while editorials of the 
secular press, wheresoever Miss Bennett had moved with 
local people, testified to the fulfillment of a wonderful life 
purpose. It is not practicable to reproduce these highly 
laudatory papers in this book, but the selection of certain 
paragraphs which differ in emphasis is permissible. 

The connectional organ of the Methodist Episcopal 
Church, South, the Christian Advocate, published at Nash- 
ville, Tenn., outlined the accomplishment of her life and 
closed with this resume of the qualities that made her a 
great leader: 

"Miss Bennett was deeply spiritual, a lifelong stu- 
dent, a gifted platform speaker, a real statesman, and 
a wise, progressive, and safe leader. Hers was a busy, 
useful life. She rests from her labors, but the influence 
of her life will live on and on and on." 

The Woodford Sun, of Versailles, Ky., published this 
testimonial to her strength, tenderness, and resourcefulness : 

(285) 



286 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"Miss Belle H. Bennett, one of the most prominent 
women in Kentucky, died at her home in Richmond last 
Thursday morning, after a long illness, in the seven- 
tieth year of her age. 

"She is survived by one brother, Waller Bennett, of 
Richmond. She was a sister of the late John Bennett, 
of Richmond, one of the State's ablest lawyers and a 
State Senator; of the late Dr. David Bennett, who was 
long a resident of Lexington and president of the old 
National Exchange Bank; of the late Samuel Ben- 
nett, of Lexington ; and of James and William Bennett, 
both deceased, of Richmond, 

"Although Miss Bennett came of a family of promi- 
nent and unusually able people, she was more widely 
known than any of them, her long and arduous work 
in the missionary and educational activities of the Meth- 
odist Church having made her known and admired both 
in this country and abroad. The list of schools which 
she had established or fostered, and of missionary enter- 
prises which she had helped, constitutes one of the most 
illustrious records of achievement in the history of 
American womanhood. She was a really great woman, 
and it is astonishing that in one lifetime she could have 
done so much. 

"In thinking of her life, there came to the writer's 
mind the picture Luke draws in the Acts of the Apostles 
of the death of Dorcas, a woman 'full of good works 
and of almsdeeds which she did,' and of how, when 
Peter came, 'all the widows stood by him weeping, and 
shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, 
while she was with them.' 

"And we thought that if all those who have received 
an education and an opportunity in life and those who 
have been led to the Saviour through the instrumentali- 
ties which Miss Bennett founded and fostered and toiled* 
for and expended her fortune upon — if they had gath- 
ered at the casket which held all of her that was mortal, 
the whole city of Richmond could not have contained 
them within its limits. She was a wonderful woman 
and did a wonderful work, and all is well with her. 

" 'He giveth his beloved sleep.' " 

Personal tributes from many friends and fellow workers 
flooded the Church and secular newspapers, repeating over 



HER LIFE WORK 287 

and over again the sense of individual loss and wonder 
over the achievements of her life. Miss Lucile Crooke, of 
Richmond, Ky., worked by Miss Bennett's side in her first 
great enterprise for the kingdom when she established the 
Scarritt Bible and Training School. It seems fitting that 
this message from her p€n to the Richmond Register should 
be preserved in this life story: 

"Loving reverence for the most consistent and un- 
blemished Christian character I have ever known im- 
pels this tribute to the memory of Belle Harris Ben- 
nett. In the wee small hours of yesternight this noble 
Christian woman laid down a life rich in service, full 
of achievement, illuminated at every stage with the 
virtues and the praise which emanate only from a pure, 
lofty, unselfish character, whose foundation stone is in- 
domitable trust and faith in God. 

"The official character of Christian life work can 
be, will be, more adequately dealt with by those as- 
sociated with her in its varied branches, its diverse de- 
partments, its tremendous responsibilities. It is more 
especially the personal viewpoint that inspires this 
tribute, though the two phases of her life are so close- 
ly interwoven as to be almost inseparable. 

"A very leader of leaders, a tower of strength, she 
guided the hosts of Southern Methodist womanhood 
through the breakers to the shore, with never a hint of 
dominance, or pride of place, or thought of self. She 
received honors, she wielded powers, she performed 
duties, she carried responsibilities that few, even in 
her home town, dreamed of, because of her innate mod- 
esty that was akin to humility. With head, heart, and 
conscience in perfect unison, kindly, loving, generous, 
gentle in consideration of others, these were the quali- 
ties that made her a great and useful and well-beloved 
woman, whose every instinct and aspiration was serv- 
ice; literally dying in her armor — the armor of a val- 
iant soldier of the Cross, a lover of her fellow men. 

"Endowed by nature with an artistic temperament, 
she loved the beautiful in nature and in art. Gifted in 
intellect, she loved the best in literature, so that pic- 
tures and books lent their daily inspiration to her daily 
life. 



288 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

"Her life was rich in love, because in every relation 
of life she was so fine, so unselfish, so generous, so 
helpful. The -humble and the lowly received her sym- 
pathy, shared her fellowship, and could abundantly testi- 
fy that hers was an open hand. Indeed, her steward- 
ship was an obligation joyfully acknoweldged, never 
for a moment evaded nor neglected. She lived nobly 
and conscientiously. She died in the full assurance of 
faith which guided her life from her youth. She died 
praying to be brave, to be patient, to be tender, when 
every hour of her life had been resplendently jeweled 
with these and all other Christian attributes. She died, 
leaving us who loved her a precious, a priceless ex- 
ample." 

One other personal expression must find its place in these 
records, as it reveals the secret of Miss Bennett's easy 
leadership of a great group of fellow workers. The writer 
is Mrs. L. P. Smith, of Texas, her long-time workfellow, 
and the tribute appeared in the King's Messenger: 

"Our Deborah has gone! That is the thought that 
comes again and again. On last Thursday, July 20, 
1922, a telegram from the deaconess. Miss Emily Olm- 
stead, who has been Miss Bennett's secretary for the 
past four years, said : 'Entered new life at midnight — 
burial Saturday.' 

"We are so glad that the weeks, even months of pain 
and weakness, are over and she whom we love is happy 
and strong and well and with Jesus. We must carry on 
the work she loved, not just the outward form of it 
perhaps, but the life of it, the living principles of it. 
What a wonderful lover she was ! She loved every- 
body — black, red, and yellow. Wherever she went the 
sorrowful and the troubled and the burdened sought 
her out and came to her for comfort and counsel, and 
she gave to all out of her great heart. 

"What a wonderful leader she was ! She gripped the 
hearts of the women of Southern Methodism and held 
them to high ideals. She kept the broad sympathy and 
clear vision of a prophetess. 

"What a wonderful student she was, ever seeking 
wisdom and gathering from all sources inspiration and 
knowledge ! She knew world conditions and needs and 
ever sought to minister to those. 



HER LIFE WORK 289 

^'What a wonderful teacher she was ! She taught our 
women to love God's Word and to love others, to 
study the conditions of city and country, and to be in- 
telligent in the work of social service. 

"What a wonderful prayer life she lived! Every 
question was settled through prayer. My last memory 
of her is one of prayer. I was in Richmond, Ky., for 
one more time of precious fellowship and one more 
look of her face. We were in a fine old Southern home, 
and Miss Bennett was sitting up for a short time. 
Josie, an old-time Negro friend, came in, and after a 
few minutes Miss Bennett said : 'Let us pray together.' 
We gathered around her chair, and as each prayed 
heaven was near and God's presence was manifest. 

"She was the only president of the Woman's Board 
of Home Missions and of the Council. She has led in 
every crisis and through every testing time, and we 
leaned so heavily on her strength and wisdom. We 
feel so bereft and wonder upon whom her mantle will 
fall. We thank our Heavenly Father for her life that 
has blest so many. Dear friend, we follow on. 

'If life be not in length of days. 

In silvered locks and furrowed brow, 
But living to the Saviour's praise. 

How few have lived so long! 
Though earth may boast one gem the less. 

May not e'en heaven the richer be? 
And myriads on thy footsteps press, 

To share thy blest eternity.' " 

Every auxiliary and district and Conference society in 
the homeland and in the foreign mission fields promptly 
held services in honor of this valiant leader of the Lord's 
hosts. Resolutions glowing with commendation of her 
wonderful ministry and expressions of gratitude for her 
life were spread on the pages of their minutes. The fol- 
lowing tribute from the Woman's Missionary Council was 
sent out to the Church soon after her death: 

" 'Blessed are they that love his appearing.' 
"In the early morning of July 20, 1922, Miss Belle 
H. Bennett entered into a new and larger life, the life 
19 



290 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

everlasting, the life for which here was but the prep- 
aration. No longer the earth mists hide her from the 
spirit world. It hath been given to her to see Him as 
he is. 

"In triumphant faith she passed out of life on earth 
into the great adventure of the hereafter. Her last 
message to the women who were hers in a kinship of 
love and service was Gladstone's beautiful prayer of 
consolation. 

"Her service so wonderful and so far reaching during 
a long and useful life will abide. She will serve as a 
ministering spirit from a world which we have faith to 
believe is 'nearer now than we think.' 

"Among her last words were : 'Are not all angels 
spirits that serve him, whom he sends out to render 
service for the benefit of those who before long will in- 
herit salvation?' Hebrews i: 14 (Weymouth). 

"We shall miss her gracious, beautiful personality in 
the councils of the Church and in interdenominational 
gatherings, where she has been our representative and 
our leader. 

"We shall miss her statesmanlike vision and her 
words of wisdom in conferences and committee meet- 
ings, where she for so many years gave us larger con- 
ceptions of a world task and lifted us with her ideals 
of world service. 

"We shall miss the tokens of friendship and ex- 
pressions of tenderness and sympathy in times of per- 
sonal need. She was a great friend. She is a great 
friend. She will be our leader in a larger life, in a 
larger love, in a larger service. She has passed from 
our sight, but she will live always. 

"The spirit of Christ so wonderfully reproduced in 
her, in us must be reproduced that we may carry on to 
achievement the work which her vision mapped out and 
her love made possible. 

"We wish to express to the family our appreciation 
of her great life. We recognize their sacrifice in hav- 
ing given her for so many years to her world service. 
We grieve with them in the separation which must be 
for a time, and we rejoice with them in the larger 
life into which she has entered. 

"We wish to express to the women in the Conferences 
and in the auxiliaries, and to the great body of the 
womanhood of the Church who loved her and who for 



HER LIFE WORK 291 

so many years trusted her leadership, our grief with 
them in our inexpressible loss. Shall not we together 
renew our zeal in carrying forward the work to which 
she gave her life and follow on with loyalty and de- 
votion, knowing that we are following the Christ we 
saw embodied in her. 

" 'For it is in Christ that the fullness of God's nature 
dwells embodied, and in him ye are made complete.* 
(Col. 2:9, 10, Weymouth.) 

Mrs. F. F. Stephens, 
Mrs. B. W. Lipscomb, 
Mrs. H. R. Steele, 
Miss Estelle Haskin, 

Committee." 

Messages of sympathy came from various denominational 
woman's missionary societies and boards to the Council. 
This communication from the oldest woman's missionary 
organization, the only independent missionary society in 
the United States, is selected for this register of the life of 
this w^oman of catholic spirit: 

"October 13, 1922. 
*'To the Woman's Missionary Council: 

"At the regular meeting of the Board of Managers 
of the Woman's Union Missionary Society of America, 
on October 11, announcement was made of the death 
of Miss Belle H. Bennett, which has occurred since the 
last meeting of the Board. The following action was 
taken : 

"The Board of Managers of the Woman's Union 
Missionary Society of America extends sympathy to 
the Woman's Missionary Council of the Board of Mis- 
sions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in 
the loss it has sustained in the home-going of its Presi- 
dent, Miss Belle H. Bennett. We sorrow with the 
women of the South, feeling that their loss and ours is 
irreparable. In her sympathies, service, and influence 
Miss Bennett was one of those rare women who belong 
to the whole world. She has left the Christian women 
of America a heritage of precious memories and of 
inspiration in the work of making Christ known to a 
■needy world. Adele Masters, 

Recording 6 ecretary." 



292 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

Memorial services were not confined to Church or re- 
ligious organizations. In clubs, unions, and associations 
where Miss Bennett's influence reached out in national and 
civic affairs, special meetings commemorative of her life 
and services were held. The meeting by the Boonesboro 
Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, in 
Richmond, at the home of the Regent, Mrs. M. C. Kellog, 
must be recorded. The reading of Robert Louis Steven- 
son's "Epitaph" and the singing of the "Lost Chord" by- 
Mrs. Paul Bumam gave tender emphasis to the going home 
of this long-time member. The Kentucky Society, of Evans- 
ton, 111., was also among the social groups that held special 
service in her honor. 

The first annual meeting of the Woman's Missionary 
Council after Miss Bennett's death, held at Mobile, Ala., 
April, 1923, will linger long in the memory of those who 
were present because of the beauty and tenderness of the 
memorial service. The triumph of nature in the exquisite 
flowers and luxuriant ferns and vines which graced the 
chancel of the church reminded her fellow workers of the 
triumph of life over death of the flower of yesteryear, and 
that she whom they honored dwelt not with yon dead, but 

"About the immortal throne where seraphs joy, 
In growing vision and in growing love." 

The Council Armual Report for 1923 contains this ac- 
count of this beautiful service: 

"This was a triumphant service. So near were heav- 
enly places brought that her spirit was truly in our 
midst as Bishop Edwin D. Mouzon gave the Bible les- 
son on immortality. 

"Mrs. R. W. MacDonell, her friend, paid tribute to 
the surrendered life whose keynote was love; Deacon- 
ess Emily Olmstead read Mrs. Emily Allen Siler's 
poem dedicated to Miss Bennett's life; and Miss Maria 
L. Gibson, her coworker, offered thanks for the beauti- 



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HER LIFE WORK 293 

ful life and prayed that 'from the Council there might go 
forth such an influence of strength and beauty that 
the nations of the earth may feel that we follow her and 
her Christ.' The srvice closed with the celebration of the 
Lord's Supper, emphasizing the reality of the impres- 
sions of the hour. Thus Miss Bennett leads on, and 
ere the women left the church they took up the slogan 
she had given them : *By all the mercies of the past, 
by the glorious hope of the future, we dare not falter 
nor fail.' " 

A tender and beautiful service at this session was the 
presentation to the Council of an oil portrait of Miss Ben- 
nett, made possible by the earnings of "Woman and Mis- 
sions," Miss Haskin's history of the organized woman's 
missionary work of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
South. 

Miss Bennett left one unfinished task, one which had ab- 
sorbed her thought and prayer for more than five years. 
It was the reorganization and enlargement of the Scarritt 
Bible and Training School. The calls from the mission 
fields for college and university men and women involved 
not only deeply spiritual discernment of God's eternal truths 
revealed in the Bible, but inevitably more highly technical 
and richly cultural courses than the Training School had 
furnished in the past. She recognized the fact that two 
generations of missionary work had developed a native 
leadership that brought the missionaries of the twentieth 
century into competition in educational work with native 
leaders of the people they would help. Her analysis of 
this situation was given to the missionary women of Amer- 
ica in this statement: 

"The world has grown so close together in this last 
quarter of a century that the native leaders in every 
non-Christian nation know only too well whether our 
Mission Boards are giving them the best schools and 
church buildings, the best hospitals, and the best men 
and women that our Christian civilization has produced. 



294 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

They are calling for the best and are indifferent to less 
than the best. How often have we heard Dr. Young 
J. Allen, the late missionary statesman, say, 'Show the 
Chinese people that what you have is better than what 
they possess, and they will be eager for it' !" 

When Miss Bennett went to South America and to the 
Orient and looked about the home fields, she saw^ for her- 
self a new world demanding missionaries prepared for the 
"more difficult and exacting tasks awaiting them in an 
awakened and tumultuous world." In the report of her 
visit of inspection of the woman's work in the Orient in 
1917 she said: 

"Our workers in every field have wrought well; but 
the very advance in civilization in the Oriental lands, 
the establishment of educational systems, the building 
of Bible schools and opening of new lines of com- 
merce and industry make a like advance in all forms of 
missionary endeavor imperative. The preparation of 
our missionaries must be more thorough; specialists in 
many lines of work must be secured ; industrial and com- 
munity work must be emphasized. And through all 
these the great aim should be not only the spread of the 
gospel, but the development of strong Christian leaders 
among the people of each nation, for the bulk of the 
work in each country must be done by the people them- 
selves." 

This woman of faith, bom in workfellowship with the 
Divine, recognized the voice of God in these world chal- 
lenges, saying: "Speak unto the children of Israel that they 
go forward." Again, in obedience she had said, as when 
God called her to establish the Scarritt Bible and Training 
School: "Yes, Lord, I will do it." Miss Gibson also caught 
the vision of a larger Scarritt and resigned from the presi- 
dency lest her long service and advancing years "might 
hinder a forward movement." A new president was chosen 
for the school, whose large experience in missionary move- 
ments and power of organization prepared him to build 



HER LIFE WORK 295 

upon the sacred past. Miss Bennett's close study of the 
subject showed her that a missionary training school should 
be located near a teachers' college for correlation with clas- 
sical and economic courses. She saw that Scarritt should 
become sufficiently technical to be recharted as a college 
empowered to confer graduate degrees. On December 13, 
192 1, seven months before her death, she wrote Mrs. Glide 
concerning her plans for a larger Scarritt : 

"I have had two weeks of hard and constant com- 
mittee work, except on the Sabbath days, in Nashville. 
My first two days were with a group of eight, two from 
the Board of Education, two from the Board of Mis- 
sions, two from the Sunday School Board, and two 
from the Council. Dr. Cuninggim, the President of 
our Scarritt College of Missions, asked for this meet- 
ing. For two days and a part of one night we gave 
our best thought and mental strength to continuous con- 
sideration of how the Church from the preacher down 
could best be trained to do the work God had called it 
to do. We all recognized the fact that our preaching 
force was not what it should be; the theological semi- 
naries give a theoretical training, not so much in the 
Word of God, as in certain great lines of thought. 
Beginning with the preachers, we went down through 
every line of paid workers of the Church and tried to 
see if we could map out plans and courses through 
which all of those who wanted fellowship with Christ 
in service might get it. Dr. Cuninggim, who was the 
first secretary in charge of the correspondence courses 
for the preachers in the Church, had brought in splendid 
material, and I believe we have made the beginning of 
a very great advance movement for the Church." 

Thus far she had worked for the reorganization of 
this great institution when her hands were stayed by death. 
At the first meeting of the Council after her going home the 
women of the Church determined to finish the task by mov- 
ing Scarritt Bible and Training School from Kansas City 
and relocating it where affiliation with a great university was 
possible according to her last expressed desire. By unani- 



296 BELLE HARRIS BENNETT 

mous consent they proposed to build a great Belle H. Ben- 
nett Memorial on the new campus and provide for the en- 
dowment of the Bennett Biblical Department of the School. 
Five hundred thousand dollars was placed as the minimum 
amount for the erection of these monuments to perpetuate 
the name of her whose wise leadership Southern Methodist 
women had gladly followed. In less than three years the 
women and children poured six hundred and thirty-nine 
thousand five hundred and eighty-four dollars ($639,584) 
into the treasury as love gifts in memory of her who loved 
and toiled and prayed for them. Never before has there 
been so large a gift for any institution in the woman's work 
of the Church. 

In 1923 the old Scarritt, hallowed by sacred memories 
and vast service, was moved to Nashville, Tenn., and chart- 
ered as "The Scarritt College for Christian Workers," with 
authority to confer graduate degrees. Its location near 
Peabody Teachers' College makes possible the large prepa- 
ration the modern missionary must have for greatest use- 
fulness. It also meets the demand for training leaders of 
religious education for the home Church. This new Scar- 
ritt College for Christian Workers stands as the full fruition 
of Miss Bennett's first vision of a prepared leadership for 
a world's conquest. It stands the "lengthened shadow" of 
her own being. 

Within five years after God moved her from service 
among men the beautiful Belle H. Bennett Memorial was 
completed. Built of gray limestone, semi-Gothic in archi- 
tecture, with a great tower rising high above, it suggests 
the great religious structures of the Old World. Every hour 
the chimes in the tower ring out the great old hymns of the 
Church. In its beauty and noble form this memorial will 
tell the story through the years of her whose light so shone 
that men seeing her good works glorified the Father. Here 
men and women who have heard the call divine will learn 



HER LIFE WORK 297 

the secret of her power and follow as she did God's divine 
law of life through death that others may live. Like her 
they will have power by self-renunciation and victory by 
surrender to God's will. 

Thus radiates the afterglow of this great life. Her name 

"Shall kindle many a heart to equal flame. 
The fire she lighted shall live on and on, 
Till all the darkness of the lands be gone, 
And all the kingdoms of the earth be won. 

And one — 
A soul so fiery sweet can never die. 
But lives and loves and works through all eternity." 





llM 



0027266 



6 






METHODIST 1759 

CENTER 

BY15^2 MacDonell, R. W. 

B471 Belle Harris Bennett. 

KL35h 

1928 

METHODIST a. # cj^ 

CENTER 

BY1542 MacDonell, R. W. 

B^Tl Belle Harris Bennett. 

M135b 

1928 



UNITED METHODIST CHURCH 
GENERAL COMMISSION ON ARCHIVES AND HISTORY 
NEW JERSEY 07940